A letter to my younger self: Advice for the class of 2026

Undergraduate students reflect on what they wish they knew before stepping on campus.

Dear class of 2026,

First of all, congratulations on being accepted to USC with a shrinking acceptance rate of under 12%. Also, kudos for being the most diverse class yet, with one of five students being first generation. It might be scary to embark on a new journey, especially since the class of 2026 has been marked as promising and you all likely hold the weight of expectation on your shoulders. Nonetheless, from students who have undergone this pressure before, we have some bits of advice for you. Here are some nuggets of information that current undergraduates wished they had known before entering college:

Everyone gets a little homesick

For many incoming students, living alone is a first. Having the responsibility of taking care of yourself and experiencing all these firsts away from family can lead to a common feeling of homesickness. It gets the best of us, especially when you get sick for the first time and don’t have a parent to take care of you.

The weather is weird, the people are new, and this city is huge. How could you not get homesick?

Well, find comfort in the fact that this feeling is not just happening to you. Many who come from the farthest corners of the world also feel the same when at USC. Junior Jade Wolff, a theater major, has the perfect solution for this gut wrenching feeling. In the words of Charlie Puth, family and friends are only “one call away.”

“Homesickness affects you, especially within the first couple of days,” Wolff said, “but then you kind of realize you can call your parents or siblings. You might have to calculate the time difference, but you can still call them and reach out.”

Clubs want YOU!

The infamous Club Fair down Trousdale at the beginning of each semester can be overwhelming and intimidating. All these people with their club shirts and logos may seem like too much to bear as a newbie. But even walking down Trousdale and glancing at a club or two can make a difference.

“Joining things that I personally have been interested in is the way that I’ve been able to make a lot of my friends and make connections,” said sophomore Hannah Selken, a biomedical engineering major.

Even if the large crowds aren’t for you, there are other ways to find clubs and things you are interested in. EngageSC is a hyperlinked website on your MyUSC portal that has a list of all active clubs and organizations along with the contact information for the clubs. You can also look to Instagram where many clubs and organizations at USC post regularly about their meetings and events.

There’s something for everyone at USC. You will surely find your crowd.

Take that surfing course

From surfing at Santa Monica to yoga at Associates Park, there are a plethora of different classes that may not have to do with your course plan but can open the doors to new or existing interests. This helps keep a healthy balance of school work and fun.

“Don’t feel limited to what you’re here to study,” said sophomore Sandhya Sundaram, a mathematics/economics major. “For me, that’s been taking music classes. And if they’re not in your major, take really fun two unit classes.”

It might be daunting to take a class and feel like you might fail and get a big “F” on your transcript, but that is what college is about: taking risks and reaching for the stars. And luckily, you can also take classes Pass/No Pass, which takes the stress away from a letter grade.

“This is the time [to take risks],” Selken added. ”We’re in such a supportive environment that you are able to take risks without it really affecting you as much as it would in your adult life.”

Even if you don’t pick up a guitar ever again or fall off your surfboard an embarrassing amount of times, at least you can say you tried. And, in the end, that’s the best anyone can do.

From this writer to the next

From writing papers and essays to short stories for your English workshop, you can never escape the wretched writing curriculum. You may love to write or maybe it’s not your strong suit. One class you can’t graduate without is Writing 150, a course that ranges from topics like arts and humanities to business and social justice.

My advice to you when entering college-level academic writing is to take a Writing 150 course that you love and take those skills of outlines, time management and research tools; use them in all of your courses. There’s also the beautiful writing contract which ensures that even the least skilled writers will pass the course if they try.

Don’t let academic writing intimidate you. You got this!

College can be an unnerving new reality with new experiences and feelings that come along with it. Take comfort in the fact that everyone at USC has been exactly where you are, entering the gates of higher education with legs shaking, overwhelmed by opportunities. But the best thing to do is take a deep breath and take that risk of stepping through the doors.

Wishing you the best of luck,

Your Trojan family