Once a year, USC becomes partially populated by wide-eyed,
well-accomplished high school seniors*.
We know they’re not in college
yet. It’s obvious from the endearingly bushytailed quality about them. Explore
students are much like our campus squirrels (yes, I am taking personal
ownership in USC’s squirrel population ““ I really miss my dog, okay?), but
minus the evil, territorial part. (Last semester a squirrel tried to attack me
next to the bike racks by GFS. It remains the most terrifying experience of my
time at USC.) In other words, they are cute and you want to befriend them
through giving them nuts (this analogy is really not working out).

A real USC squirrel in action (just kidding, thank God).

It’s only my second year seeing the influx of these adorable
squirrel-like high schoolers, so I decided to make a guide to common Explore
student personalities. Just in case you want to chat them up (and you should
because unlike USC squirrels, Explore kids are actually awesome!)

Sally: The “Is It
That Obvious?!?!?!” Explorer

next to large maps of campus; asking questions in Sample Hall

Though the dazed look in their eyes is a dead giveaway, the “Is It That
Obvious?!?!?!?!” Explorer will generally be holding a thick folder of USC
paraphernalia and be wearing a noticeably empty JanSport.

As a
Sally would be the type to dart across Trousdale at noon, unaware
of the deadly bikes and longboards coming straight at her.

Sally is one of my favorites. She’s willing
to ask questions, excited to come to college, and Really Impressed by just
about anything (especially the waffles at EVK). This makes Sally both easy
and fun to talk to. Sally’s only flaw is the fact that every time someone asks
if she’s here for Explore, she gasps a little and giggles nervously before
saying, “Is it that obvious?!?!?!” Yes Sally. It is that obvious.

If she
comes to USC”¦ 
Sally is going to spend at least a semester asking “IS IT
THAT OBVIOUS?!?!?” when people ask whether she’s a freshman.

Leland: The “I’m
Going to Stanford” Explorer

rolling his eyes, looking at his iPhone

With his cardinal sweatshirt and jeans, Leland looks like an actual college
student from behind. Until you see that his sweatshirt has “Stanford” smugly
stenciled on the front. On this campus, cardinal means something else. Go back
to high school. (Leland, you cocky bastard).

As a
Leland is the type to hang out in the Mudd courtyard, glaring at
anyone who passes by. (Leland, you cocky bastard).

Leland is the absolute worst. I really don’t mind the Explore kids who talk about the
Ivies they want to go to. (Once accepted, a lot of them will come here anyway,
partially for the weather). I don’t even mind the ones who talk about UCLA as a
viable option. (All you have to say to those ones is “50-0″ with a solemn
. Or link them to this impressive video). But Leland takes it to another level: he won’t shut up about
Stanford. He’s at USC for free food and bragging rights, not to take a half or
full ride at this university seriously. Go to Stanford, Leland. Be a tree, see
if we care.

If he
comes to USC”¦
he’ll transfer by sophomore year. (Leland, you cocky
bastard). Alternatively, he’ll discover marijuana and alcohol and flunk out.

Veronica: The “Who’s
Tommy Trojan” Explorer

Commonly Found: in front of Tommy Trojan, tweeting about being in
front of “a really cool statue”

Appearance: Veronica has her braces intact and hasn’t necessarily
made the switch over to contacts. And boy, does she pull that JanSport up high.
However, she’s hit up Aeropostale for her time at Explore, so she’s set on the
fashion front.

As a squirrel: Veronica would be the type to dart across Trousdale at
noon, unaware of the deadly bikes and longboards coming straight at her.

Veronica can get a little grating,
but she means well. Conversing with her will involve a lot of patient head
nodding and explaining (“Yes, his name is Tommy.”) However, Veronica catches on
quickly and will leave knowing that Traveler is the official mascot of the
university. She’ll probably be offered Trustee too.

If she comes to USC”¦ she’ll rush for three days, then drop.
Eventually, she’ll join skydiving club or something.

Steven: The “I’ve
Been Here Longer than You” Explorer

USC fraternity men, circa 1890. Steven’s in there somewhere.

Commonly Found: well, Steven’s favorite place on campus is the
Little Chapel of Silence, but he liked it better when the Lot was serving food
instead of the Campus Center

Appearance: Steven is wearing the coolest USC sweatshirt you’ve
ever seen. When you ask where he got it, he gives a smug smile: “Oh, I got it
four or five years ago. On the sales rack at Pertusati.” You look confused.
“Pertusati”¦ you know? The bookstore.”
NO ONE CALLS IT PERTUSATI, STEVEN. Not even the Pertusati family.

As a squirrel: Steven would be the type to throw acorns at you from the banyan tree outside of Moreton Fig

Ah, Steven. In case he hasn’t told
you ten times, Steven’s great-great-great grandfather was one of the original
fifty-three students at USC back in 1880. He’s been to every football game
since he was two. All six of his siblings went here and one of his older sisters
is currently living in Birnkrant. He’ll probably live in Fluor though because
he wants to be close to the Lyon Center. He really can’t wait to be a Trojan
Knight. By the time Steven leaves, he’ll have taught you a few things about
USC. Good for you, Steven.

If he comes to USC”¦ are you kidding? He probably paid his
enrollment deposit from the womb.

Tommy: The “OH MY GOD
I’M GOING HERE” Explorer

taking a picture in front of Tommy Trojan, fight on fingers at the

Appearance: It
changes notably over the days of Explore. He goes from wearing plaid shorts and
a T-shirt to a USC hoodie and USC sweatpants and USC boxers and USC bandana.

He’ll be front and center next year. Probably with the “H” on his chest.

As a
Tommy would be the type to perch on the top of the Traveler

I enjoy Tommy’s unbridled enthusiasm. It
reminds me of my first semester at USC**. He wants to visit all fifteen
libraries. He’s already addicted to Lemonade. He drops $500 at the bookstore ““
the USC golf balls were a totally necessary purchase. He wants to sit in on all
your classes (even the one you generally “oversleep” for). Tommy adds you on
Facebook within half an hour of meeting you.

If he
comes to USC
“¦ he’ll be a Spirit Leader and upload at least four pictures
with Matt Barkley.

Somewhere in between Sally, Leland, Veronica, Steven, and
Tommy are hundreds of high school seniors who will be offered full and
half-rides to USC. Of those hundreds, there at least six dozen who are
completely cool and interesting. I promise. 

(If any Explore students are reading this: I honestly do love you and your enthusiasm. I was the girl who passed you and smiled wistfully. Come to this school. We have evil squirrels and a few other cool things. Plus, at least one person in the class of 2016 has already committed).

*Well, way more than once a year, but a bunch of them come
at the same time during Explore.

**That’s a blatant lie, I have never expressed that much
excitement for anything ever.