Published Oct 22, 2003

The first of my school visits was today; I started out with a local option, USC. As I was already passingly familiar with the campus, and had taken some time to become fairly knowledgeable about the program, this seemed like a comfortable place to begin. Of course, it helped that I was very interested in the school and excited to attend a class and meet students at what was becoming, based on my research, one of my top choices.

The day didn’t begin auspiciously; the traffic light at one of the main intersections on my route to SC was out, so I crawled along at about five miles per hour for about 20 minutes. It was fortunate that I had been nervous about my first school visit and had left extra-early!

I got to campus just in time to sign in, say hi to the student who would show me around and get taken to the 9:00 am stats class I had decided to sit in on.

Now, early-morning statistics not as crazy as it sounds. I’ve always enjoyed the subject, especially applied statistics. In college, I was a psych major, and, in every psych class, you had to carry out a research project; of course, for every project, you had to gather and analyze data. So, after four years of that I’m quite comfortable with stats.

The class was enjoyable. The professor was young, fun and seemed to connect with the class. The students seemed very interested in learning, which was nice to see because the undergrad reputation of SC is as a bit of a school for jocks (I’m aware that this reputation is probably counterfactual). The class ended with a quiz, on which I did well; it was actually kind of fun to take a quiz. I’m looking forward to stats, whatever the school upon which I conclude.

Marshall had assigned a student to lead me around and give me all the dirt, and my “Ambassador,” as they’re called, was nice and excited to show me the school (actually, it turns out, almost all the students I saw today were very open and accessible — seems to be an attribute of the school).

After meeting the Ambassador, I had lunch with a Marshall student I know. So, by the time I got to the early-afternoon information session, I’d had a chance to get almost all of my major questions answered by at least one authentic student. The information session was funny, almost everybody in it turned out to be interested in marketing — I hope that’s not true of Marshall as a whole, although, on one level, it would be nice to have a place full of people just like me! Several prospectives in the session asked interesting questions that wouldn’t have occurred to me, so I definitely believe I profited from the experience.

At any rate, I’m not much of a question-asker: I prefer to let people talk and really listen to what they say. When I was working on the student-run newspapers in high school and college, I found the most effective way to get information was to let people talk, ask a few strategic questions to put them at ease and keep things going, and they would eventually give up all of the secrets I wanted to know.

Listening at USC, what I heard was a lot of people who were relentlessly on-message. Everybody spoke of the “Trojan family” of alumni who will do anything to help each other out. Everybody mentioned the cooperative atmosphere. Everybody talked about the intensive first year of core courses. All things that interest me, but I have to admit that I did wonder if everybody at Marshall had been brainwashed in the first few months of their first year, as the Assistant Director of Admissions who lead the information session playfully suggested. If I go to Marshall, I might have to consider doing some research into how the school puts together such a successful marketing program that subtly keeps everybody so on-message.

At any rate, I felt comfortable at the school and with the students. USC seems like an interesting opportunity, I wonder how it will stack up against the other schools as I visit them.