USC: sunny days, football games, and beach parties. Our friend Jessica has mastered how to balance a career in acting and journalism (two degrees for the price of one!) while studying under the sun, taking advantage of all of the opportunities USC has to offer.
How do YA know TheYaSisters?
We grew up together! We were in school and in shows and classes together!
What do ya do?
Initially, I was an actress, but I like playing a lot of different roles offstage as well. In college, I’ve been a journalist, dramaturge, director, writer, producer, editor, and stage manager!
Where do you go to college?
The University of Southern California double majoring in the School of Dramatic Arts (Theatre) and the Annenberg School (Journalism).
Where are you from?
New York City!
SAT or ACT?
SAT, but I was on the 2400 scale.
How many schools did you apply to?
14 schools but multiple programs.
What was the application process like?
It was a lot! I was applying to schools across disciplines, from theatre B.F.A programs to academic B.A programs. I started actively touring and thinking about college by the end of my freshman year of high school, so the application process felt like it was a three year thing.
Did you have to audition? If so, how did you prepare?
I had to audition for some programs but not all. I only did acting B.F.A programs (not musical theatre) and I was lucky enough to have to prepare audition monologues in my high school curriculum since I was a drama major in arts school.
Did you always know USC was the right fit for you?
Yes and no. USC was one of the last schools I heard about. I was initially applying to a lot of small liberal arts schools. After I spent a summer at Northwestern, I realized that I wanted to start considering programs at larger research universities. Once I found USC though, I knew it was right. I went to an event USC hosted in NYC about the university and I realized it had everything I wanted.
How did you become a double-major? Was it easy? Hard?
I always knew I wanted to major in theatre and something else. I feel like studying things outside of theatre inform you as a person of the world and translates into your art. I didn’t initially know what I wanted to double major in; it was a decision between journalism, american history, and creative writing.
What’s it like being a double-major?
I chose USC because it was possible to double major; many schools have a very strict idea of theatre training that does not allow you to take up another major. But just because it’s possible doesn’t make it easy. I’ve had to make sacrifices on both ends in which I can’t take EVERY elective I want or be able to have a lighter load for a semester or two.
But it’s been so worth it. It’s a lot of work but I enjoy the work I’m doing and I’m growing so much from it.
I’m also lucky that my double majors intersect. I like to joke that I’m getting two different degrees in storytelling in different ways. Both majors hold storytelling at their core, but utilize different methods. I highly suggest double majoring if you can. You make double the connections, learn about two different fields, and get two different degrees for the (very expensive) price of one!
What’s your favorite class and why?
Surprisingly, it’s my Advanced Coding for Storytelling class! I never expected to be someone who enjoyed coding so much that I would sneak myself into a graduate level class to continue it.
What is the coolest opportunity you have had thanks to USC?
Being the editor of the Arts & Theatre section has been such an amazing opportunity. It helped me realize the perfect intersection of my majors; the journalistic skills of writing a review merging with my dramaturgical analysis of a production’s holistic effect.
It also hasn’t happened yet, but I’m also very excited to be going home to NYC for Annenberg’s career trek maymester, where my cohort will be meeting with companies and publications in the NYC media scene.
If you could change one thing about USC what would it be?
I would add more theatre classes that focus on directing/producing.
If you could change one thing about the whole college process, what would it be?
I wish I came to the realization that I wanted to be at a larger university sooner. I was very stuck on the idea of what I wanted my college experience to be and where specifically I wanted to go, but once I opened my eyes to other experiences it helped me realize what I actually wanted versus what I felt I was supposed to want.
What advice would you give to students beginning the application process?
I made a spreadsheet at the start of my junior year of every school and program I was thinking of applying to. Each program had deadlines, SAT scores (some schools even required SAT IIs!) and GPA, contact
information with admissions people I’ve met or found online, audition or portfolio dates, audition material requirements. Some schools, especially when they have auditions, have early deadlines so that you can sign up for auditions soon after or for scholarships. Even if the deadline is later, it’s better to get it in early.
What advice would you give to students making their college decisions?
Physically go and see schools if you can; either before you apply or after you accept. Being on campus physically, talking to people on campus, getting a feel for the culture is so important. Even if you like the school on paper, you have to think about if YOU feel like you can see yourself in that community for four years and if you feel you will be able to learn and grow comfortably in that environment. And see a variety of schools if you can; schools with a campus, schools without a campus, schools in cities or schools in towns. You never know where will resonate with you.
Have you been in any productions at USC? If so, what was the experience like?
I’ve been really involved in theatrical productions at USC. In terms of productions from the School of Dramatic Arts, I’ve only been in one during the spring of my freshman year, “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play.” It was such a weird little powerful play and I loved the cast and my director so much. I still work with the director now in classes and even though almost everyone else in the production with me has graduated, it was so nice to have that initial community my first year.
Since I’m double majoring and a little strapped for units, I’ve been heavily involved in student productions. I’ve performed in a few, including Moliere’s “The Miser,” a student-devised show in Bovard for the School of Social Work, and the lead in “She Kills Monsters.” The latter was definitely a testament to how creative and inventive students can be. The show took place in a friend’s backyard and featured a five-headed monster constructed entirely out of boxes, among other dungeon and dragon monsters.
I’ve worked on a ton of student productions behind the scenes. I directed a student-written one act play, I dramaturged a student production of “Fun Home,” I produced a production of “The Laramie Project” in which I was responsible for working with the design team to make the show come to life.
USC really allows you to be a theatre maker in whatever capacity you want and that has been invaluable to me.
Liked this #CollegeConvo? Check out our #CollegeConvo with East Coaster NYU student Stephanie Ge here.