The Daily Gamecock

'I can tell people I'm Batman': Incoming freshmen share goals, worries for first year at USC

A first-year student laughs while playing a game of rock paper scissors on The Horseshoe during an orientation session on July 20, 2022. Before starting their first semester at USC, first-year students attend a two-day program to introduce them to campus and college life.
A first-year student laughs while playing a game of rock paper scissors on The Horseshoe during an orientation session on July 20, 2022. Before starting their first semester at USC, first-year students attend a two-day program to introduce them to campus and college life.

The Class of 2026 got their first taste of life on campus during this summer's orientation. 

Over the course of 14 orientation sessions, The Daily Gamecock surveyed 114 incoming freshmen to gain insight into their different backgrounds and expectations for their first-year experience. 

Choosing USC

For a lot of incoming freshmen, USC became home as soon as they stepped foot on campus. Out of 114 people surveyed, 21 said the university’s campus was one of the reasons they decided to come to USC.

“The day that I came here, not a single student was on the campus, it was just a nice day. And I was like, ‘I don’t know why, but it feels like home,’” business student Katie Gawlik said. “I came back, and I was like, ‘This is where I am meant to be.’”

In addition to enjoying campus, others, like exercise science student Sam Scifers, said their main attraction to USC was the university’s environment.

“Out of all the schools I visited, there’s an atmosphere here at USC that nowhere else can really replicate,” Scifers said.

Others were focused on their major and what opportunities the university had to offer. Thirty people The Daily Gamecock surveyed said they came to USC for academic programs.

“I was in between here and UNC Chapel Hill, but then by getting the Honors College and the opportunities here, I decided to stay home,” biology student and Columbia native Saiva Wade said.

Out of the 12 Columbia natives surveyed, five said growing up in Columbia, they always wanted to come to USC. International business student Rishi Patel said the Darla Moore School of Business helped convinced him to stay in his hometown.

“I’ve grown up here my whole life, and then I decided I wanted to do international business and the reputation that the school has, is what brought me here,” Patel said.

Besides campus and major, money was the third greatest factor for the freshmen surveyed. Some out-of-state students, like aerospace engineering student Joseph Keeler, said scholarship money helped him choose USC over other out-of-state schools. 

Out of the 68 students surveyed who were from South Carolina, 11 of these students named in-state tuition as a primary reason for why they chose USC. 

“I knew that I wanted to go to (graduate) school, so I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on college, like my undergrad,” math student Ashita Tripathi said. “And so, (South Carolina) was a state school, so it felt right to go here.” 

Looking ahead to freshman year

Forty-nine of the freshmen surveyed said meeting new people was one of the things they are excited about in their freshman year. 

“My big thing is probably going to be just meeting new people and stuff because it’s a fresh start from high school, so I guess, breaking out of the mold of in a bubble because I was in a relatively small town so it’s going to be a big difference between them and here,” international business student Parker Hall said.

Another area of focus for students was the ability to engage in activities with their peers. Computer science student Kevin Francis said he looks forward to staying in shape with friends.

“I’m trying to get big in the gym with my gym bro,” Francis said.

As an SEC school, South Carolina football has a major presence among the student body. For many freshmen, “Saturdays in South Carolina” is a tradition they said they cannot wait to get involved in. Out of 114 surveyed, 26 people listed football as something they are looking forward to in their first year on campus.

Along with football, many students, like mechanical engineering student Jackson Forrest, said they looked forward to building a new reputation. 

“Football games are gonna be sweet, and a new reputation is gonna be awesome — be whoever I want to be. I can be Batman,” Forrest said. “I can tell people I’m Batman, and they don’t know who I am.”

Some students, like biological sciences student Ava Triano, said they wanted to dive into practicing their careers.

“I really want to start to get into research and things that are more specific to my major to kind of pursue more science-related stuff,” Triano said.

First-year worries

As they begin to transition from high school to college, one of the primary concerns for the incoming freshmen surveyed was their classes. Over half of the students said they were worried about being able to handle everything to do with academics, from making it to class on time to the difficulty of their course load.

“For me personally, it’s how long my work ethic will last,” biochemistry and molecular biology student Liam Sullivan said. “I usually start off the year really strong and then slowly, like every week, just start to take a little bit off, so I’m worried about that.”

Other students worried about the distance from home.

“I think I’m just very nervous about just my emotions through it because I am very far away from family, being from Texas. And I do have a very nice roommate, but sometimes I can be a bit introverted,” global studies student Hope Denison said. “While I want to get out of my shell, there can be times where I’m just feeling down, and I don’t know how I’m going to be coping with that when I’m so far away.” 

Only being on campus for two days, some students are hopeful for the future.

“I’ve had all great interactions so far, so I am hoping the same will occur as I go along,” public health student Kendall McKnight said.

As the summer is coming to an end, these students’ freshman year is just beginning at a university known for its first-year experience. Follow along as The Daily Gamecock continues to keep up with those surveyed as they navigate sporting events, final exams and a new social life at South Carolina.

- Sydney Dunlap contributed to reporting in this article.

Correction: A previous version of this article misattributed a quote to Cody Chang. The quote is actually from Liam Sullivan and has been changed.


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