Entering USC, students get bombarded with pamphlets on various academic programs. They see the glamor of the Marshall School of Business, resources allocated to the Viterbi School of Engineering programs and the spotlight on the School of Cinematic Arts. USC is unique in that there seems to be a specialized school for almost every single academic discipline — journalism, business, dance and music. With so many specialized schools, students give little attention to USC’s liberal arts college, the Dornsife College of Arts, Letters and Sciences.
All disciplines that don’t have their own school are in Dornsife. Everything from philosophy and math to biology and political science falls under this umbrella. In addition to these academic disciplines, Dornsife is also home to all the students who come into USC as undecided.
Despite the college’s wide-encompassing presence, some students think little of the school. As early as the application process, students see Dornsife as a backup. When high school applicants are rejected from more selective schools such as Marshall, they are automatically considered for Dornsife. Even the internal application process seems to validate the college’s lack of importance.
Transferring to Viterbi requires a B in three major classes, making the transfer process take up to an entire school year. With an acceptance rate in the single digits, transferring into SCA is even harder, requiring three letters of recommendation and countless supplements. In contrast, transferring into Dornsife only requires a half-hour appointment with an academic advisor. Anyone, no matter their current classes or grade level, can add a Dornsife major.
Along with its lack of selectivity, Dornsife also has less resources and access to exclusive programs. Marshall is famous for their career advising services, allowing any business major to make unlimited appointments. They also receive complimentary subscriptions to various career resources. Marshall is home to prestigious programs including the Global Leadership Program, which allows the top of the freshman class to travel to China to meet business executives.
SCA boasts USC’s distinguished film and television major. With private film showings and famous professors, USC’s small cinematic arts school is well cared for.
In comparison, very little is exclusive to Dornsife. The vast majority of Dornsife resources are also available to students in other schools.
With its lack of selectivity and resources, it’s easy to see the liberal arts college as a place for the leftovers and the untalented. After all, if anyone were truly smart they could get A’s in computer science courses to transfer into Viterbi instead of declaring its less prestigious counterpart in Dornsife, Physics/CS. Why would anyone want to be an economics major if they could be in a top business school like Marshall?
These statements ultimately make an incorrect assumption on the reason students choose their academic discipline.While the liberal arts college may have its share of unmotivated students and Marshall rejects, these students exist in every school at USC and are not the result of Dornsife’s lack of rigor. The vast majority of students choose Dornsife because the school contains the subject they are interested in.
Dornsife doesn’t need a crazy low acceptance rate or a fancy career center to be a great learning community; its apparent weaknesses — such as its lack of selectivity and resources — are what make the school what it is: an accessible and nurturing environment that welcomes all who are willing and wanting to learn.
The college has unparalleled professors teaching small classes on important social issues, open to anyone to take. As USC’s least pre-professional college, Dornsife has courses in the humanities and social sciences that not only teach students the critical thinking skills they need for their future career, but also make students more knowledgeable about the world around them. After all, college is about finding who you are and who you want to be; with its interdisciplinary courses and welcoming environment, Dornsife is the best place to do just that.
Less wealthy than Viterbi, less glittery than Marshall, Dornsife exhibits the very best qualities of USC — inclusivity, interdisciplinary thought and community. All students should want to participate in such a diverse and dynamic community, and with Dornsife’s lack of entrance requirements, everyone can. The door’s always open to Dornsife; come on in.