Name: Zaki Beydoun
University & Graduation Year: University of Southern California, 2024
High School: American School of Dubai
Major/Program: Business Administration and Industrial & Systems Engineering

1. As a first-year student, what was the biggest surprise about college life? Were there any specific challenges you faced or adjustments you had to make?

I feel like my biggest surprise about college life was learning that the quintessential cliches about college are true. For example, professors don’t necessarily have the responsibility to care about you unless you put in the effort. If you are to fall out of the loop, you will fall out of the loop. In high school, staff and teachers naturally look after you, because that’s their responsibility. This is just a small example of the sheer independence I was given as a freshman, which shocked me. Furthermore, in high school, I had a schedule I followed, but in university, I make my own schedule and pursue activities and passions along with it.

2. What makes your college special? What is your favorite thing about it?

Once I adapted to the fact that I had all the independence in the world, I feel like this freedom became the most advantageous and best aspect of being a college student. I believe that USC has such an ambitious and collaborative student body. Many of the students you meet inspire you to strive for success both inside and outside the classroom; they help you become the best version of yourself. Furthermore, I feel like the students I have met at USC are extremely welcoming and make sure to help you when you’re struggling with issues you will inevitably come across in university. Whether that’s school work, recruiting opportunities, or even personal troubles, the student body is filled with individuals who want to help you and see you thrive. Finally, I feel like the Trojan Network is extremely supportive. When applying for jobs, you will have the access to a network of individuals who are willing to go out of their way to assist you in your search for career opportunities.

3. Are there any misconceptions out there about your college? What would you like to share with students who might be considering applying?

Obviously the first misconception that comes to my mind about USC is how it’s known as the “University of Spoiled Children.” When reflecting on my experience as a student here, the friends I’ve made and the people I’ve met have been extremely genuine and humble, and I feel like the student body is filled with ambitious and hungry students that want to succeed.

4. Are you involved in any clubs, teams, or other extracurricular activities? If so, tell us how this has shaped your college experience.

USC is filled with hundreds of clubs that address all sorts of passions an individual may have. I’ve joined the Expat Society, Global Investment Society, and Trojan Investing Society and been active in all three. They have really helped me find what I’m really passionate about, and by exploring different clubs I also learned what I’m not as interested in as I thought. Furthermore, the clubs I’m involved in also led to me meeting individuals who share the same passions; I feel like clubs have been a great venue for me to meet people who I consider one of my closest friends today.

5. If you could give your high school self any advice about college admissions, what would you say? Having been through the college admissions process, what is the biggest lesson you learned?

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned through the college admissions process is to be open to many different schools. Having multiple good options trumps having one massive desire. If you do not get into your dream school, trust you are meant to go to one of the schools where you’ve been accepted. Finding a college is about much more than prestigious rankings; it’s about which school is the best fit for you. Focus on finding the right ones for you and there will be no regrets. Furthermore, realize that the college admission stress will be an extremely minuscule part of your life; this is an experience that every high school student goes through, and everything happens for a reason.

6. How has COVID altered your college experience? Do you have any specific advice about attending college in the post-pandemic world?

Obviously COVID has forced me and every other student to move onto an online avenue for learning, and that in itself is a challenge. For me personally, I was forced to go back to Dubai as soon as I started to feel like I’ve adapted to my new independent life, and I found that to be extremely difficult. Coming from Dubai to downtown Los Angeles forced me to discover a lot about myself and learn how to be independent, and for that to all go away for around 12 months was definitely an unprecedented and difficult experience. I think now, more than ever, it’s crucial to take advantage of personal interactions wherever possible. Small things like attending your professors’ office hours and collaborating and learning the opinions and thoughts of your classmates all matter, and you won’t realize it until it’s taken away from you.