USC Hidden Gems and Favorite Spots: Staff and Student Picks

Want to get the insiders scoop of all the great places to study, eat and hang out at USC? Our students and staff are ready to dive in and reveal some of the best spots on campus


“My go-to order is an iced blueberry matcha latte from Dulce Cafe in the village. It’s the perfect twist to a regular matcha latte!”
-Naomi, Cupertino (CA), Sophomore, Business Administration major and Cinematic Arts minor

“My absolute favorite spot to grab a coffee/chai tea before class is Dulce in the USC Village! I love their tea lattes and their breakfast sandwich, and one of my favorite things to do is to meet a friend here and have breakfast together before classes!”
-Abby; Bartlett, IL; Junior; Linguistics, Spanish

Literatea! Absolutely love the pun with the name and the thai tea boba brings me major joy anytime during the semester! The courtyard outside is also super nice to enjoy that LA sun and get some studying in.”
-Audrey, Orange, CA, Senior, Business Administration/minor: Music Industry

“Literatea (hidden behind Doheney Library)”
-Haley Rosenspire, Admission Counselor for City of San Diego, Phoenix, Oklahoma

“I love passing by The Illy Café in our Wallis Annenberg Hall! They have delicious macaroons, and if you ever go, I recommend trying the Chocolate or Caramel flavors!”
-Aime; Porterville, CA, Junior; BA Psychology, BA Spanish, and Minor in Education and Society

“Orange Mocha from Illy in Annenberg. Its my fav and I miss them dearly.” 
-Hayley Camin, Admission Counselor for the Central Coast of California and Canada

“Cammereli Cafe in Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall. Always quiet, and a great courtyard to hang in outside”
-Cal Jensen, Admission Counselor for Orange County, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire


“Queens Courtyard”
-Pj; Winter Park, Florida; Sophomore; Psychology and Economics Major with a Minor in Environmental Studies
“My favorite hidden gem on campus is the Special Collections section in Doheny Memorial Library! I feel like I’m on a secret mission when I visit and it’s so cool how we have rare artifacts on our campus!”
-Aime; Porterville, CA, Junior; BA Psychology, BA Spanish, and Minor in Education and Society

“My favorite hidden gem is actually Traditions in Tudor Campus Center (TCC), not very hidden, but good food and great memories! I remember eating $1 wings almost every Monday night with my 2 best friends during my sophomore year. I just absolutely love the vibes and the memories I made there.”
-Audrey, Orange, CA, Senior, Business Administration/minor: Music Industry

“My favorite hidden gem on campus is the little courtyard outside of Mudd Hall. Here you’ll find this beautiful fountain surrounded by palm trees and flowers and only about 3 tables or so, and it’s right on the edge of campus, so it’s the perfect place to study if you want somewhere outside and quiet.”
-Abby; Bartlett, IL; Junior; Linguistics, Spanish

“It’s not super hidden, but I love hanging out on the lawn in the Thornton Courtyard! It’s pretty quiet, secluded, and has shade!”

-Adrika, Santa Clara, Junior, Political Science/Psychology minor

“My favorite study spots are the study rooms in the upper levels of Fertitta Hall because through the windows I can see downtown’s skyline!”
-Naomi, Cupertino (CA), Sophomore, Business Administration Major and Cinematic Arts Minor
“Hoose Philosophy Library – get some absolute silence away from the otherwise hustle and bustle of campus”
-Neelam Savla, Associate Director

“Town & Gown! It’s so gorgeous with it’s beautiful chandeliers, large fireplace, and the open layout that you can’t help but feel very fancy when you are inside. And when it’s decked out for Christmas…*heart eyes*”
-Dylan Goodwill – Admission Counselor for Arizona, New Mexico, West Texas, Utah & California (San Bernardino, Riverside, Ontario area)

“The upstairs balconies of the School of Cinematic Arts are perfect for people watching and a nice hideaway in a busy part of campus! You’ll often overhear students talking about their latest projects and upcoming film assignments. Also totally accessible to students not in the School of Cinematic Arts (SCA)!”
-Natasha Hunter, Admission Counselor for Santa Clara, CA and Upstate NY


“At least once every weekend my friend (who is now my roommate!) and I would meet up and sit on the windowsill of 6th floor Pardee Tower to talk about our nights and usually eat a late-night snack. We did it so often that other people on our floor knew they could count on us being there and would come by and say hi before going to bed.”
-Adrika, Santa Clara, Junior, Political Science/Psychology minor

“McCarthy Quad Farmers Market on Wednesday mornings, especially the pupusas”
-Cal Jensen, Admission Counselor for Orange County, CA, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire

“My favorite part about living on campus is the community events that happen through Residential Education. This year, I’m a Virtual Peer Mentor, which means I plan a ton of virtual events for USC students, and I absolutely love the opportunity to attend these events, meet new people, and get the chance to take a break with other people and spend some meaningful time with others.”
-Abby; Bartlett, IL; Junior; Linguistics, Spanish

“My favorite memory about living on campus was when I studied with my friends during Finals Week! In my first semester of my sophomore year, my friends and I would claim one of the study rooms and make it our private “home”. We brought snacks, drinks, and motivated one another when we were struggling to study!”
-Aime; Porterville, CA, Junior; BA Psychology, BA Spanish, and Minor in Education and Society

“My favorite memories on campus involve USC sports in any capacity, with my friends to tag along! The basketball games are the absolute best and so fun, even for someone like me who is not a huge sports fan. Baseball games are also super fun, especially with free hotdogs or free sweatshirts to incentivize me and friends to go.”
-Audrey, Orange, CA, Senior, Business Administration/minor: Music Industry
“The people! I appreciate my coworkers so much, as they make this job so fun and amazing. But even reaching out to the Faculty and Students shows you how awesome the Trojan community is!”
-Dylan Goodwill – Admission Counselor for Arizona, New Mexico, West Texas, Utah & California (San Bernardino, Riverside, Ontario area)

“The Village is always a great place to meet up with friends and coworkers after class or after work. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch one of these sunsets while sitting on the Village couches!”
-Natasha Hunter, Admission Counselor for Santa Clara, CA and Upstate NY


“One USC memory I will always remember is my first USC concert put on by concerts committee, Springfest, since I was a spring admit. I remember seeing so many amazing artists. It was so fun to get all the free goodies and listen to some awesome bands/music from all genres.”
-Audrey, Orange, CA, Senior, Business Administration/minor: Music Industry

“I will always remember when the first time I performed in the pre-game, half-time, and post-game shows during our first home football game. I was one of the Silks in our Trojan Marching Band, and even though I was really nervous to be in front of thousands of fans, the energy inside the Coliseum was infectious and exhilarating. What made it even better was that my mom and sister were in the crowd and were able to experience that moment with me too!”
-Aime; Porterville, CA, Junior; BA Psychology, BA Spanish, and Minor in Education and Society

“Football (and bigtime collegiate athletics) was a deciding factor in why I chose USC and I will never forget the day I walked into the Coliseum for my first USC football game my freshman year. It was an earlier game I think noon kickoff, but walking through the tunnel to our seats and seeing the Coliseum open up on a sunny, warm day with the red seats popping everywhere combined with the green grass and cardinal and gold everywhere is a highlight of my time at USC. Made me way more excited for football and I knew I made the best choice. ”
-Whitney Rollerson – Admission Counselor for Long Beach, CA

“My favorite memory was walking to the Native American Student Assembly (NASA) center and eating frybread with the members. We ate home food while we all talked about home. I have a huge soft spot for my Native students and being with them makes me so happy!”
Dylan Goodwill – Admission Counselor for Arizona, New Mexico, West Texas, Utah & California (San Bernardino, Riverside, Ontario area)

“One of my favorite USC memories was when my best friend and I got to attend a Spanish film premiere in the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Blvd! At this time, I was a part of a Spanish film and culture class, and for our final project, we were supposed to go out into LA and attend some type of cultural event. I asked my professors if she had any recommendations for an event, and she ended up giving these premiere tickets to me and my friend for free! Because of this project, I was able to walk on the red carpet, watch an incredible Spanish film, listen to a Q&A with the directors and actors who flew in from Spain that day, and even attend the reception after the event. It was quite honestly one of my LA dreams come true!”
-Abby; Bartlett, IL; Junior; Linguistics, Spanish

“Years ago I had a very long layover in Incheon, South Korea and decided to go on a guided city tour. There were 4 people total on the tour and another couple were USC alumni – we bonded immediately since I was wearing my USC sweatshirt and had a great time talking about USC football and exploring Incheon for those few hours in between our flights!”
-Neelam Savla, Associate Director

Ready to visit these spots on campus? Let us know if you tried them in the comments!

Fight On!

Do we really mean test optional?

Months ago, when the deepening impact of Covid-19 became apparent, the USC Office of Admission decided it would neither be wise nor safe to require applicants to go to testing centers in order to submit standardized test scores. As a result, for the upcoming admission cycle (students applying for the 2021-2022 academic year), we are test optional. That means we are not requiring SAT or ACT scores to be submitted as part of the application to us. This applies to students applying for our merit-based scholarships and homeschoolers as well. 

When we say optional, we truly mean it. This isn’t a secret wink or a code for something else. We want students to decide. Students who do not submit test scores will not be disadvantaged. It is their choice. If students are proud of their scores and want them to be considered, they can choose to include them. If students decide that they don’t want to send us test scores for whatever reason, we are sufficiently prepared to consider the merits of their applications without them. If confronted with two similar student profiles, we will not favor the student with a test score over the student without a test score. We are serious. We ask for so much information from students already. The test score is but one piece. 

When students apply to USC through the Common Application, they will be able to select whether they want test scores included. If they choose “no,” all test scores (even ones sent earlier) will be suppressed. If they choose “yes,” then we will see the test scores they choose to send us. We will superscore both SAT and ACT test scores. If students change their minds during the process, there is a window of opportunity for the student to contact the Office of Admission to make us aware of that change – but it must be before we review their file, so no later than the application deadline they have chosen (either December 1 or January 15).  

Additionally, we don’t require scores from the SAT Subject Test and AP/IB exams (unless they are used to demonstrate high school graduation). International applicants whose native language is not English will still be required to submit English proficiency exam scores at this time.  

If you have not taken an SAT or ACT yet, and there are little to no opportunities for you to do so, please don’t. We do not want you risking your health for an exam.  And if you have already taken the test or want to and can do so safely in the near future, then plan accordingly. Again, this is a student’s choice, like what topic you choose to write about in your essay. There isn’t a single universal topic out there that will get you admitted or denied or a single way to write it. Much of the same philosophy applies to test scores. So please exercise your choice with regard to you and your family’s safety and wellbeing. We at USC will not need those scores to make a comprehensive and thoughtful admission decision.