Elite Daily decided to go all the way West for this campus profile. In fact, this is the first time we’ve profiled a school on the Pacific rim. Now, before you begin scrutinizing the school moniker found in the title, Los Angeles is one beautiful city. However, we are not necessarily referencing the weather or architecture. LA has some of the hottest people, culture and industry in the United States. So with that said, why not profile a school like the University of Southern California?
Truth be told, we found USC to be incredibly arrogant – but justifiably so. By walking through campus, it is well within the realm of possibility to see TV shows being filmed, models and celebrities walking around, and the kind of diversity the likes of which Los Angeles is renowned for.
With its rising status in the world of academia, sports programs, and the highly touted Trojan Network connections, you get the feeling that you’re missing out on something huge by not going at USC. Most students, and this may be the arrogance talking, cannot even begin to comprehend why anyone admitted to its class would choose attend any other school.
USC seems to have it all, so we decided to investigate. Here is the University of Southern California.
With 17,500 undergraduate students and 20,500 graduate students, you might think that most students would, ostensibly, feel lost. But no matter where you go on campus, people seem to be running into classmates, friends and people that they are fairly certain they met at a party the night before. The smaller campus does seem to lend itself to this make shift social incubation. This is particularly true during times of day with higher foot traffic – say, around noon, when people wakeup from last night’s raging party.
The gender ratio is split fairly evenly with slightly more women attending the university.
First and foremost, everyone that goes here is thin. Not everyone that we saw was in perfect shape, but no one we saw was visibly out of shape. That may just be Los Angeles, but we have a feeling that it is related to the underlying competitive nature of the students.
Speaking of competition; there were a lot of very well-dressed individuals. Prada, Chanel and Gucci are notable designers to romp across the campus. All present and accounted for in ostentatious displays of wealth. This makes sense when you consider how many billionaires and regular millionaires send their children here.
Generally speaking, the students are friendly and willing to make conversation; after all, that’s how you network. We also found the student body to be inherently interesting: everyone has a passion, and everyone is doing something about it. But given the socially competitive and arrogant nature of USC, we did find it interesting how many students actually downplay their own intelligence.
A quick run-down of the types you’ll find around the tiny campus:
Hipsters: We didn’t know it was possible for this many people to be up and coming DJ’s.
Athletes: So you only own USC gear?
Frat Boys: Either at the gym or drinking on the porches – they go to class when their schedule opens up.
Sorority Girls: You’re hot, but are you legally required to wear matching t-shirts?
LGBTQ: We get it: you’re here and you’re queer. Cool story bro.
International Students: Lurking in the library and the furthest corners of campus.
Greek life is one of the oldest traditions at USC, and when many people think of the university they immediately associate the two. The rush process is one of the most competitive in the country, with hundreds of prospective rushees seeking spots in the top Fraternities and Sororities on campus.
The dynamic of status as a top house is fairly different between Fraternities and Sororities.
The top four Sororities at USC – Delta Gamma, Kappa, Theta and Pi Phi – have always been the top four, and are likely to remain as such far into the foreseeable future. That being said, with increased admission standards and a smaller pool of rushees deserving “top house” status, Pi Phi has slipped a little in recent years.
On the Fraternity side, the rankings of the houses are subjected to increasingly transient periods as top houses. This is due to fraternity houses accruing much more risk in Greek life than Sororities, which jeopardizes their ability to maintain the privilege of top honors. Thus, they are prone to probation and restrictions that can affect their pledge classes and lead to the fall of one house and the emergence of another.
One such house is the Phi Psi Fraternity, which spent a year off of Frat Row due to its probation but returned to become USC’s top fraternity during the fall 2009 semester. Riding this wave of success – socially , philanthropically and in the recruitment process –Phi Psi remains one of the most exclusive Fraternities at USC, with a reputation for throwing many of the year’s wildest parties. Movie star Alexander Ludwig is currently a Phi Psi.
Joining Phi Psi as constituents in the upper echelons of Fraternal status are Sigma Chi and Lamda Chi. Sigma Chi is comprised almost entirely of students from Southern California – particularly the Newport Beach area – and the house’s members deftly trigger reminiscence of the show “The O.C.”, which makes them attractive with many girls.
Lamda Chi rounds out the upper rung of Fraternities, also throwing some of USC’s best parties. The house does receive ridicule for it’s lack of a real pledge process and is referred to by many as a social club, rather than a real Fraternity.
Closely following the top three houses are SAE and AEPi. At a time, SAE was USC’s dominant Fraternity – the good ol’ boy’s club that played home to the sons of many of USC’s most successful alumni – like Carson Palmer. However, probation restricted their pledge class of 2010, and the house has struggled to recover ever since.
AEPi is USC’s Jewish Fraternity that possesses a mix of some of the school’s most popular students. However, this collection of members only exists as a consequence of their not being able to join an upper tier house, were it not for religious affiliation.
The rest of USC’s Greek System is comprised of a diverse range of less-socially involved houses, including PIKE (a top house before being kicked off the row), TKE (a mix of cool guys and try hards) and Sigma Nu (a welcoming but quiet bunch).
Scandalous Campus Moment
This school loves its gossip. And with coke busts, a fraternity that was burnt to the ground so that their house could collect on insurance, allegations of rape against current NFL players that are probably on your fantasy teams, and the slightly more chilling shooting of two international students on what is decidedly the “wrong” side of campus there is always plenty to gossip about. A few years ago a group of anonymous students attempted a blog reminiscent of Gossip Girl, which was shut down when people started to threaten to sue with the university’s backing. Since then sites regularly pop up, everyone publically condemns them, and then privately contributes to them.
The football program very publically faced NCAA sanctions when a few shady details about former Heisman trophy winner Reggie Bush came to light. It turns out a third party had provided him with a vehicle in addition to paying his family’s rent and traveling expenses to games. USC lost scholarships and post-season participation, resulting in the Pac-12 championship game being played by two teams who had both lost to USC in season (one of which was UCLA with a score of 50-0).
On the more salacious side of things was the rooftop scandal: two students, one a member of USC’s Kappa Sigma fraternity, were photographed having sex on top of an administration building adjacent to the quad. The photographs, demonstrating multiple positions, went on to make national news. The couple? They’re actually still dating believe it or not.
There are so many notable alumni. With its LA location and extensive history, few would be erroneous enough to discard the fact that many famous surnames have found their way through USC’s hallowed halls. Actors, musicians, CEOs, heads of state, and successful people that have come out of this school that we lament only being able to select a few. John Wayne, Neil Armstrong, Ron Howard, George Lucas, Will Ferrell (who recently rented out campus bar the 90 for his birthday party), Dr. Drew Pinsky, and Frank Gehry all have degrees from USC. This doesn’t even mention top NFL and NBA draft picks, more Olympians than most countries even offer up, and cherished hardcore USC fans like Snoop Dogg, who is always on the sidelines at the games.
Rating – 98%
Compete with scandal, scantily clad women, and supercilious Grecian pledges, we love USC and all of its arrogance. They deserve their score – if not for their good looks then for the fact that they know they’re better than anyone else.
What To Do At USC
Let us be blunt: if you want it, USC has got it. Not being a dry campus sets a certain precedent regarding alcohol consumption and the student population absolutely follows suit. The relatively sketchy surrounding campus coupled with the Greek scene makes the purchase and consumption of alcohol by minors a breeze. Favorite drinks are vodka cranberries – Ahem, a Cape Cod if you want to be gauche – jack and cokes, and the favorite special drink of local establishment the 9-0: the Dirty Shirley.
Drugs are commonplace but generally stay recreational as most students are actually concerned about their futures. Almost everyone smokes weed casually, and while it isn’t difficult to locate dealers, many students get club cards and go to the seedier clinics in downtown Los Angeles. Cocaine and ecstasy are also easy to come by, once you get into the party scene; you just have to tease out the connections. Both are very popular drugs so expect to be around people that are on them at some point.
Though we don’t consider sex to be a vice, we’ll advise that, if you’re well dressed and coherent, it shouldn’t be too hard to find an after-hours companion. With the university health center’s willingness to give you as many condoms as you request (glow in the dark are also provided) safe sex is always just a few 3 a.m. texts and stumbles away – just don’t be surprised to find yourself hooking up in the same room as another couple. Just remember: it’s only awkward if you make it that way.
The social scene at USC is dominated by the Greek Community. Fraternities tend to throw small Tuesday night events, wine Wednesdays, and large themed parties on Thursday nights. The largest of these parties are held at the Phi Psi, Sigma Chi and Lamda Chi Fraternities – others, such as AEPi and SAE, hold smaller get togethers.
Due to the sheer number of Fraternities outweighing the number of Sororities, middle tier houses – such as TKE and Sigma Nu – struggle to persuade many girls to attend their events. Fraternity events are generally attended exclusively to members of the host Fraternity and all females that wishes to attend. Males members of different houses occasionally intermingle on Thursday nights if they have close friends in other houses.
In addition to the Fraternity parties, social life at USC revolves around various bars, such as 901 Bar & Grill. Located on Figueroa at the end of Greek Row, the 90 is the only bar within walking distance of the campus area. As a result, it is packed almost every night of the week, mostly by Greek students without scheduled events and non-Greeks looking to blow off steam.
Most parties happen on the Row or on the few safer streets near campus. The 90 is simultaneously the best and the worst bar because it is really the only option if you’re under 21. We recommend investing in a fake ID (or 5) the minute you set foot on campus to be able to get in here and to be able to explore the Hollywood area as well. Many club promoters shuttle students to the clubs via limos on Saturday nights to keep their clubs packed.
Freshman and sophomore year really is all about the Row and then gradually students find themselves at house parties with closer friends and less university control.
But with all this talk on vices it should be first noted that plenty of straight edge partiers walk among the campus, if that’s more your style you will still enjoy visiting or attending this university as the parties themselves are legendary. Try as they might to rebrand the school to detract from the harder partying ways of the ’80s and ’90s these kids know how to rage. Live camels and monkeys? Turning your fraternity into military barracks? World famous DJ in your kitchen? We at Elite Daily have seen all of this and more at USC.
Rating – 92%
While Frat row is insanely impressive, the bar scene is non-existent. Trips to Las Vegas and local LA nightclubs may freshen up the experience but, overall, the party scene is not as well rounded as we would have hoped it to be. USC does it well, but not the best in this category. A solid A- for effort!
USC’s endowments are jaw-dropping. Their largest gift to date has been $200 million, and that was just from one couple. The endowment itself is nearly $3 billion – which rivals most Ivy’s and, amongst private universities, closely tops NYU’s. This enables it to function as a research university on the ascent and to hire top notch professors who are experts in their fields – not just at a theoretical level but in practice as well.
Many students we spoke to site this as one of the biggest perks of attending. The cinematic arts complex is brand new and home to the George Lucas and Steven Spielberg buildings. Films are often screened for USC classes before being released to the public.
The Marshall business school offers an entrepreneurship major for those looking to trail-blaze and the Viterbi school of Engineering is top in the country for video game design. It is not uncommon for companies to offer jobs to students by walking into class and making an announcement that they’re accepting applications. Talk about insider knowledge.
The Trojan Network also transitioned from being more colloquial in nature to an actual online career resource with alumni providing opportunities, informational interviews, and advice for students and other alumni.
We can’t forget to mention that companies are constantly on campus handing out food, drinks, makeup, and products to students all the time hoping to influence a next generation of decision makers.
Rating – 95%
Few schools top to accolades of USC’s academia. The intelligentsia flock here for a reason – and it’s not only because of their endowment. USC is the place to go for high-end academics in the sun, complete with beautiful women.
Like they do for most things in life, Greek students expect nothing but excellence from their sports teams. With one of the most storied football teams in the nation, football season is the unparalleled favorite at USC. Tailgating is ingrained in Trojan’s blood, and alumni begin staking out their spots as early as six in the morning on gamedays. USC Torjan football, started in 1888, has amassed an all-time win-loss record of 793–313–54, giving the program a .706 winning percentage.
USC is also home to the nation’s premiere men’s volleyball and water polo teams, making up for a basketball team that never fails to disappoint. Take some time out of your day to watch the US Olympic Water Polo team compete this summer in London. You will see USC attached to the names of more than a few team members. As a matter of fact, there have been more Trojans in the Olympics than from any other university in the world – if USC were its own nation in the Olympics, it would rank tied for 8th in the world in total gold medals earned.
While USC sports have an illustrious history, it certainly does not come without tarnish. The scandals over Reggie Bush and OJ Mayo resulted in athletic sanctions. This year will be the first year with out the sanctions, and the Trojans are ranked number one in all of the major college football polls. It should be an exciting year for an ever strong program looking to break away from its recent mistakes.
Rating – 97%
There is nothing to say here. USC has probably the most impressive sports programs in the country.
Academics vs. Sports
School spirit is no joke here. Even the hipster types are passionate about USC, non-ironically. The same intensity brought to the classroom is also brought to game day. So while athletes do not walk on water, most are well regarded and the university does everything in their power to help them succeed. Tutors are provided for free in any requested class and counselors will even offer up suggestions on the easiest courses to help student athletes out.
But other than sports, mostly all students find success through the number one cinema school in the nation, as well as the excellent Marshall School of Business. In the case of USC, no matter which path you choose to follow has its perks. It is rare to find a school with such high accolades in both academics and athletics. So pick either! You’ll always win with USC.
Overall Rating – 94%
USC has it all. An intelligent, good looking student body, dominant academics and sports, and a campus worthy of a movie – oh, wait. The campus has been featured in multiple movies. Go to USC. You will not be disappointed.
Photo credit: Chris Roman