I enjoyed giving tours to prospective students on scholarship recognition day. Taking the sharpest and brightest students in the region around our university was a great experience. Getting to know them and their dreams reminded me of my days in high school, thinking about where I wanted to go to college.
It got me thinking – how does USD stack up to other, perhaps more “prestigious” schools? My answer is clear: quite well.
There are benefits at USD that top-tier universities cannot offer. Being a mathematician-in-training, I think about the opportunities I have here that I might not have elsewhere.
If I were at Princeton or Harvard, I wouldn’t have been able to conduct research with faculty as a sophomore. If I were at Princeton and Harvard, I would be competing with people who learned calculus when they were five years old. Many of them would be in their lower teens, and professors would have scouted them out long before they walked through the campus doors.
Terry Tao, a mathematician at UCLA, received his Ph.D. when he was 21, and quickly became a full professor at 24. For those of us who aren’t working on our Ph.Ds, USD offers those same opportunities that the likes of Tao had without students needing to be a child prodigy. Simply put, you don’t need to be a genius to be able to find a full and rich experience at USD.
I doubt I would be able to get to know my professors as well as I have at USD. I think it’s fair to say this trend can be extended to every field and discipline.
Our graduates continue to go on to top-notch graduate programs. One graduate, Frank Leibarth, ended up researching polycarbonate chemistry at MIT. One of our US Senators, John Thune, is an alumnus (albeit of a graduate program), and Dusty Johnson, a candidate for the US House of Representatives, is also an alumnus, not to mention our governor, Dennis Daugaard.
When one considers the opportunities at USD and the success stories which come from those opportunities, USD does a pretty fine job. What puts the icing on the cake is the affordability and access USD has.
Tuition for USD, at just below $18,000, fairs quite well compared to other college costs. Private universities can range as high as $70,000 for a single year. A high school classmate of mine attends Penn State at the tune of $50,000, most of which they had to take out in loans.
Considering the access and opportunities provided at USD, the network of alumni, and the pleasant campus, things at USD are doing pretty well. Not to suggest that improvements can’t or shouldn’t be made. There’s always ways to make USD better.
But, after three semesters, I can safely say USD has been a wonderful experience for me. The people I’ve met, the things I’ve learned, and the opportunities I’ve been blessed with are things I do not glance over. I take them seriously and gratefully, as should we all.