This review is meant for prospective USC students that are currently intellectually inclined seniors in high school (i.e. you know Noam Chomsky isn't a kind of polish food). I hope that you can take as much as possible away from this review because I understand how hard it is to see past all the brochures and, for lack of a better word, propaganda that schools throw your way.
The only reason why I put this review as negative is because I personally have had a negative experience with USC, although I should also mention that I know many people who genuinely enjoy it here.
Let me begin by saying that I worked very hard in high school with the hopes of attending a prestigious institution of higher learning so that I could meet interesting people and develop a better understanding of the world. Unfortunately USC is not the place where someone such as myself belongs. I'm not denigrating USC, I'm just informing you that intellectually stimulating conversations with your peers will not occur at this school. I don't know if it's any better anywhere else, but I do know that the best conversations I've had in the last year have been with people who went to other schools. The reason why I don't consider this to be an insult to USC is because USC isn't trying to be a place where intellectual stimulation occurs. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a diploma mill, but it is fairly safe to say that the school is overwhelmingly pre-professional. This is in line with a broader trend in higher education, so you will probably find that in most schools. People are highly specialized in their majors and don't know very much outside of their field. I know its anecdotal but the perfect demonstration of this point was when a straight-A biology major asked me who Dick Cheney was the other day.
Self-actualization, self-discovery, or even self-betterment are really not priorities among most of my peers. I was shocked at this when I was a freshman because I received the "Presidential" scholarship and lived in the "honors" freshmen dorm. The people I met in the honors dorm (all merit-based scholarship recipients) were overwhelmingly A)pre-med B)engineering or C)cinema students. This is great if you are in to pre-professional education and think you know what you want to do at the ripe old age of 18 (ha), but if your someone like me who really didn't have a good idea the atmosphere is difficult to deal with because the pre-med and engineering kids have too much work/ are very concerned with their grades while the cinema kids primarily keep to themselves. The remainder of students that do not fall in to these groups are primarily in the Greek system. I used to have antipathy toward the Greek system because I viewed it as paying for friends, limiting social horizons, being a little creepy etc. That being said, I now understand why people join the Greek system: its the center of the social scene. Many people will join because there are simply very few other social opportunities afforded by USC student culture(apart from binge drinking on McCarthy quad on game day of course). The greek system fluctuates from people who enjoy a few beers and occasionally like to hook up (how I would classify myself) to atavistic brutes. If you come here you'll understand what I mean.
Activism, with a few exceptions of course, is for the most part none-existent. Most people don't care about sweatshop labor, rape, wars, etc. People are generally nice but superficial. There just isn't much there with most of these guys. Banality is the norm.
The neighborhood isn't as bad as everyone says, but I still wouldn't feel comfortable walking around alone close to campus after midnight though.
The classes and professors are about what you'd expect. Some big classes, some small. Some inspiring professors, some that make you want to mainline drain-o. From what I hear this is similar to most good colleges.
Don't be like me. Don't just pick USC because they give you a scholarship. If you don't get a scholarship, you may want to consider less costly options for an undergrad degree because student loan debt is soul crushing. Regardless of what they say USC is not considered on par with elite institutions such as any in the Ivy League, Stanford, Amherst, or even Berkeley. I was offered admissions to other more prestigious schools and given what I know now I probably would have cashed my chips elsewhere.