Change of plans paid off perfectly

It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

Four years ago, as I waited anxiously for my college decision letters to arrive, I envisioned how it would all play out — my dream school would accept me, the school whose posters and jerseys covered the walls of my bedroom, and I’d get to go to college close to my Orange County home. I’d worked hard, made the grades and done everything I could to make the dream a reality.

But then the small envelope came, and my fate was sealed — I didn’t get into UCLA.

It’s a harsh truth to come to terms with, getting rejected. Part of me knew that my chances of getting into the school whose football and basketball teams I’d cheered for since I was 5 years old were slim. I thought I’d prepared myself for the denial that was likely to come. But when I read the words, “We regret to inform you,” it was a pretty awful feeling.

The path I thought I was meant to be on had changed, and even though I didn’t realize it then, it was the best twist in the road that fate has ever thrown my way.

The reason why I chose powder blue instead of cardinal at such a young age is still a mystery to the rest of my family. My mom earned her doctorate degree from USC’s Rossier School of Education in 1997, and her father, Grandpa Lou, had always cheered for USC. My older brother, Josh, has been a Trojan since the day of my mom’s graduation ceremony, when he was 6 and I was 5.

Somehow, I must not have been paying attention that day, because whatever Trojan spell had been cast on Josh had no effect on me. As far back as I can remember, I’d always been a Bruin.

My dad has no allegiances to either school, so when USC and UCLA faced off in football or basketball, he would side with me so that the Selbes were evenly split.

Each year, the loser of the annual football game had to take a picture wearing the other school’s colors, and in the 12-plus years I was a UCLA fan, I was on the losing end of that bet nearly every time.

Each time I had to don a cardinal and gold shirt of my brother’s choosing each season after what was usually another lopsided Trojan victory was one of the most painful moments of my childhood, especially considering that I had to watch nearly every beating in person.

From 2001 to 2010, I attended nine out of 10 meetings between the two schools. My lone absence was in 2006, the year UCLA upset then-No. 2 USC, 13-9, at the Rose Bowl.

Missing the Bruins’ only win in the 10 years I had been going to games should have been a sign that Westwood was never the place for me.

Of the schools that did accept me, I decided to go to Arizona State University, where I spent a year as a diehard Sun Devil. Shortly after I arrived in Tempe, Ariz., however, I realized what career path I wanted to embark on — sportswriting.

Southern California is my home, and I always had the idea in the back of my mind that I would apply to transfer to UCLA after two years (per UC transfer rules) and realize my dream.

But after some quick research, I found that UCLA did not have a school for journalism. Another local school, though, did — USC.

After discussing the idea of transferring with my parents, I sent in my application but still wasn’t completely sold on the idea that I might actually go to USC.

When I visited USC for my prospective transfer meeting, however, I saw the school in an entirely different light. I saw a place that had everything — perfect location, a respected journalism school and an elite athletic program. Most of all, though, USC gave me the chance to stay closer to home and spend two years going to college with my brother, who graduated from USC in May 2013 — the perfect example of a Trojan Family.

When I finally started classes, I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in at the school that I was conditioned for years to despise. I knew that I had to get involved with the university somehow, to get to know the “enemy,” so to speak, and see if I could adapt to this new place.

The first campus group I joined was the Daily Trojan, and little did I know that day at the involvement fair what an impact the student newspaper would have on my college experience. In my three years as a staff member, I’ve covered beats for women’s tennis, men’s water polo, women’s basketball and football, written a weekly sports column and served as sports editor.

I’ve poured thousands of words and countless hours into this paper and have met some pretty incredible people along the way that helped give me some of my best memories of my college years.

I’ll always remember covering the 2012 men’s water polo national championship season, and how Jovan Vavic’s unrivaled passion and relentless enthusiasm willed his team to victory. I’ll remember the nervousness I felt the first time I covered a USC football practice. I’ll remember covering the final months of Lane Kiffin’s tenure at USC and feeling like I had an inside look at a man who was mostly reviled, yet I saw as simply misunderstood.

I’ve seen many highs and lows in USC athletics during the last three years, and looking back on it all, I wouldn’t change a thing. This school has helped me grow in a lot of ways, both personally and professionally. The Daily Trojan gave me an experience that helped me realize my passion and taught me lessons that will guide me as I move on to the next phase of my life. One of those lessons is that things don’t always go according to plan, and when they don’t, we have to make the best out of the situation we’re faced with.

In less than three weeks, I will officially be an alumnus of the University of Southern California, which was never the way I envisioned my life was going to end up.

But I’m sure glad that it did.


Nick Selbe is a senior majoring in communication. His column, “Inside the 20s,” ran Tuesdays. To comment on this story, visit or email Nick at