Mail from one USC Student with my answers to them....
Dated: May 12, 2001
I am a student at USC since the past one year (Fall 2000),
I do not want to scare you or discourage you.
But please think twice before selecting USC, do not be misled by it's Rank, you will be disillusioned within days of coming here.
If you guys have got an RA or TA before
you leave home then it's probably OK to come, otherwise simply don't.
This place will suck your parents hard earned money so fast and give you nothing in return. Let me narrate a few facts.
1) Courses are not easily available as both the Electrical Engg & Computer Science dept's always over admit students. There are waiting lists which extend through semesters. For some courses like CS551 a really good course for networking, there is a diagnostic test with a twisted preference policy. Every semester nearly 400 students give this exam and only 130-150 get through that too because of their majors being CSCN or EECN. The remaining students never get around to doing this course. Registration for the Fall semester has already begun almost a month back and all good courses under good professors are taken. When you come in Fall you will get only what's left and still pay nearly $9000/- for 3 courses. Believe it's not worth it. Also getting through the formality of enrolling into a course can be pretty painful as you may have to deal with some very snobbish professors -- may not be true for all dept's
Refer to this answer in the FAQ.
2) Also please do not come here thinking that in the US and at USC all professors being Ph.D's are very good teachers. In reality that is absolutely false. Most professors I have come across are ordinary or below that. Just being a big shot researcher doesn't make a professor a good teacher, trust me on this.
This is not a USC specific question - but is rather a general US education question.
In fact I find that most of the profs teaching here are good. They know what they are talking about.
And in addition to the quality of the professors, what should be noted is the education methodology in the US. The questions asked in the exams are conceptual instead of those in India which just test memorizing ability; the assignments here make sure you understand the concepts and are able to apply them; the grading system is relative to students in the class and distributed between finals, midterms, assignments etc which is a better way of assessing a student; the courses' syllabi are very good; many times the profs are renowned in the world in the field they are teaching; you have access to all the resources that you may require; etc. etc.
3) Housing in and around USC is a major problem, never never bank on the University to help you. On campus housing is impossible as it's only for undergrads. Housing off campus is expensive and most areas in and around the school are kind of dangerous. Although frankly those can be avoided the locality in and around the school is pretty run-down and full of Blacks & Mexicans (Can be lot of trouble). Rents are sky high, you may end up paying $850/- a month for a studio which is just a single room with a mini kitchen and toilet. To save on rent you will have to share this with one or two people. Other universities really do offer better housing options.
First of all, there is no security problem around USC, at least not enough to disturb your daily life.
Secondly, housing rates here are 300-350$ per month for most people, some get apartments for even less than this. I agree that these are a higher than at most other places in the US, where you get a good apartment for 100-150-200 bucks. But still, if you come here, you can pay your total living expenses by on-campus jobs. At other univs, you can save money from your oncampus salary apart from paying for your living expenses.
True, USC is an expensive university located in an expensive state California.
4)Finding good on-campus jobs is also a major struggle, all because the damn departments have admitted too many people. Also there is a concept of Work-study which only citizens have and employers prefer work-study students as the U.S government will pay part of their salaries. so tough finding on campus jobs too. But with a little struggle you may find something for about $6.50/hr which is minimum wage and really paltry.
The concept of work-study is I think in every university.
On campus jobs are available in plenty here, especially those of a cafetaria which pay 6.5$/hr and a meal/workday.
5)Inflated prices everywhere. You would expect things on campus to be cheap but in fact it's opposite. Everything on campus barring water is over-charged.
Dont buy from the campus then, buy from outside the campus.
6)Since the current economic scene is pretty bad there are no jobs / internships available. This time majority of the people got internships through some form of "Influence" , yes just like in India through "Sifarish", ideal USA, not really ???? This you can get even if you are studying in University no. 3000 in the USA. So dont come here thinking that you will pay for Spring & Fall and then you will get a summer internship that will fund you in the next fall. Doesn't work that way.
In a bad economic scene, getting internships can be pretty difficult. I agree.
But you get more than just a job when studying at a high-ranked institution.
7) Getting good grades i.e a high GPA is also very difficult over here. Courses are tougher, professors & their TA's are crazy can even tend to be biased (Indians usually screw up other indians the most) Especially chinese guys can be very mean and they are in thousands over here.
Grades are relative to the class performance. The top few guys will get A and then below that A-, and so on. And this is the case everywhere in the US. So I cant understand how can people get bad grades here.
I can't really think about much right now, but all that I have written above is true and you can verify it. I don't why AIS didn't high-light these points. They just wanna paint a rosy picture which not true.
If you have questions feel free to ask me
but I may take a while to respond. Anyway good luck & please do not come
to USC, there are better Universites that are cheaper than this.
Note that the USC electrical engg dept lost it's rank by 3 positions about a few months back, it will go down further. So please do not come.
bye and thank you for reading this mail
USC has good and bad points. Just like everything on this planet.
Whether USC will be your choice or not depends on your priorities.
Please go through the FAQ to make an informed decision.
Best of Luck!