Published Nov 21, 2003

I visited UCLA two days before the big game with USC, which was not intentional but was entertaining. Living in LA, I’m already steeped in the lore of the rivalry, so it wasn’t a surprise to see everyone worked up over the competition, but I’d never been on campus right beforehand. There’s nothing like an information session, especially when you can hear the mellifluous tones of the marching band playing “Sons of Westwood” and “Mighty Bruins” only a half mile away.

So now I’ve visited two schools; unintentionally, it’s the two which most invite direct comparison. Ranked similarly, with many parallel strengths, and drawing from the same applicant pool, USC and UCLA compete in more than just sports. But it’s too soon for me to compare; it took me a few days to really know how I felt about Marshall, and it’ll take me a few days to really know how I feel about Anderson.

Anderson’s feel was entirely different than Marshall’s; that was obvious from before I even came to visit. I won’t recap my Marshall visit, but a few contrasts were obvious:

  • When I visited USC, all the students ate at the cafe, and they all seemed enthused about it. I heard bad things about the cafe at UCLA, and wasn’t brave enough to try it. Now, a cafe would seem like a bit of a center of activity on a campus — everyone met at the Coop Fountain at Pomona, at one time or another — but it seems like the students at UCLA make up for it by all drinking together regularly. While Trojans didn’t claim to party together much, Bruins have on-campus bashes regularly. That seems nice, but, surprisingly, the students at SC all seemed friendlier. Or, perhaps, more like cult members out to get me to join.
  • I attended classes at both schools, and both classes seemed equivalently challenging. But then maybe I went to the wrong classes: I sat in on Statistics at SC and Marketing at UCLA, both subjects I’m strong in. I think, henceforth, I may try some Accounting classes and see who can make that clear. At any rate, the general buzz about b-school is that it’s not as academically challenging as a top college, but that it is very heavy on the learning. Trojans seemed to agree with that assessment — they didn’t feel Marshall was hard, but they had learned a lot. Anderson students I met felt that their classes were quite challenging. Is Anderson harder? Do students at Marshall learn as much as those at Anderson? Or maybe are the students at Marshall just much smarter than those at Anderson?
  • Everyone talks about networking; both schools seem to actually do it. Bruins don’t seem to be as tight with each other as Trojans, so that’s something to keep in mind.
  • There’s plenty of space at Anderson, which is nice; Marshall needs some new buildings. I’m not frankly sure how much of a bother this would be if I went to SC.

It’s time to get started with my applications, so I probably won’t be visiting any of the other schools I’m interested in until February. Now it’s time to buckle down, but I’ve got a lot to think about. I don’t yet know which traits I’ll decide are most important when I choose a school to attend — and, frankly, I didn’t decide on my college ‘til the last minute.