UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA (visited 4/4/14)
USC had one of the best organized visit programs I’ve seen; in a way, it has to be with the numbers of people visiting. They had an individualized welcome packet for each person, info sessions in two areas to make it feel less impersonal, and tour guides with a list of people assigned to their tour, partially based on region so they could talk to a student as close to home as possible. My tour guide, a PoliSci and Journalism double major from Burlington, NC, transferred here after freshman year because she wanted a big town feel and liked the idea of being in a capitol city for the political science opportunities. She feels like she has plenty of opportunities for education and recreation; off campus, she likes to go to 5 Points which is like their version of College Town.
Almost 2/3 of USC’s 20,000 students are from in-state, but they attract students from all states and more than 100 countries. NC, VA, MD, GA, and NJ are the most highly represented states outside of SC. Campus is breathtaking; the central campus has trees, bushes, and flowers everywhere, and students were out enjoying the quad. Although there are major roads surrounding campus, this is very much a pedestrian campus. All students can have cars, and there are garages available which alleviates parking issues and helps maintain the beauty of campus. Campus is highly walkable, and people walking in groups and socializing, but there is a campus shuttle for those who want it. It’s also very safe; the only time our tour guide had heard of anyone using the blue light was when someone who was allergic was stung by a bee and needed an epi-pen.
Qualified students wanting more of an academic challenge can participate in one of two “challenges”: the Capstone Scholars, a two-year program to which applicants are given automatic consideration. The scholars live together in one of the largest residence halls, located in the Humanities area of campus; it looks a little like a “spaceship” which also has a revolving restaurant on the top floor (the only one in SC). They take special classes and take a trip abroad every May (last year it was to Iceland; this year it’s Greece). It is possible to transfer into the Honors Program afterwards. The other option is the Honors College which has been ranked as #1 in the nation. This is a four-year program and is highly competitive, requiring an additional application consisting of six essays and two letters of recommendation. Classes are much smaller; students get priority registration as well as other benefits.
Students wanting an “Early Answer” (their version of Early Action) must submit their application AND have all test scores and transcripts in by October 15. They’ll take the highest composite for ACT and superscore the SAT. To be considered for the Capstone or Honors and for scholarships, applications must be in November 15. Scholarships are given to approximately 1/3 of students and are awarded based on GPA and test scores. Since the applicant pool changes every year, they don’t have specific GPA or score cut-offs. Notifications are sent out after 2/1 when the see the complete application pool. Their application includes an “Optional Personal Statement.” The rep said, “Use it!! Here’s an Insider Tip: Tell your story! Brag on yourself a bit. We’re holistic; we want to admit a well-rounded person.”
Students tend to continue being well-rounded and involved once they get on campus. Last year, students completed 472,152 service hours and raised $1.3million for charity. 1100 students studied abroad last year in 50 countries. All freshmen must live on campus; housing options include 17 Living-Learning Community as well as more traditional dorms. There are 22 dining options in 13 buildings (and they brought us into one of the traditional dining halls about halfway through campus and let us get drinks). About 20% of the students are involved in one of the 40 fraternities and sororities on campus, and housing is available in the Greek Village. They have 400 organizations and an active performing arts community (their theater was used as a Civil War Morgue; theater students do a haunted tour in there every Halloween). Gamecock Pride is huge. Many people participate in sports, and many more go out to support the athletes at games.
They make admissions decisions without taking a declared major into consideration, so no major is capped. Students complete a Common Core in first two years so it’s easy to change major or double major. Of the 95 majors, some of the more unusual or noteworthy include:
- Arts & Sciences: Criminology, Marine Science, Religious Studies
- Business. International Business #1 in the country for 16 years straight
- Mass Communication: Journalism is most comprehensive of its kind, including Print, broadcast, and more
- Engineering and Computing: undergrads can minor in Aerospace Engineering (and stay for a Masters)
- Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management. Students complete internships at places like Gucci, the NFL, Marriott, Verizon, and the Olympics.
- Health Sciences: They offer a 6-year PharmD as well as Nursing which is competitive: students are admitted to lower division of nursing and start clinicals in first two years.
Only 3% of classes have more than 150 students; 75% have fewer than 40. Our tour guide’s classes have ranged from 19-200. Her favorite class so far has been her Environmental Studies class. She liked the practical nature of the education, such as when they walked around campus at night to study the university’s energy usage and see what might be improved. She also loved her National Parks elective because it was so unusual.
The USC campus also houses the National Advocacy Center which trains 15,000 judges, lawyers, and others in the legal profession every year.