Jackson Crawford wearing University of Southern California merchandise following his high school senior year. He started USC in the spring semester. (Photo courtesy of Crawford)

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Jackson Crawford, ’20, takes on teaching job at University of Southern California

Jackson Crawford, ’20, is fully remote at the University of Southern California and planning to return in-person this fall. He is majoring in business administration, but is considering a dual degree in computer science and business administration. He went to community college at American River College over the summer and Folsom Lake College for the first semester.

Q: Why did you choose to attend USC?

A: It was the best of all worlds for me. It’s kind of funny because I think I was getting so caught up in some of the other schools I applied to that I kind of forgot about USC for a little bit. When I got the acceptance letter it all clicked in my head. I’m like wait, this is a private school, but it’s in California, and it’s in LA, and it’s really good weather, and it’s big, and it has great sports, but it’s also not 40,000 people a year, it’s only 20,000. I wanted a bigger school with sports and all that, but also it’s only like an hour and a half flight from home, which is really nice.

Q: Why did you attend community college?

A: I was admitted to USC for spring 2021. So I was trying to figure out what to do for fall. Initially, I was planning to go to Paris for six weeks. And then for whatever reason I was like picking classes and planning out housing and I kind of chickened out. I guess I decided that it wasn’t the right time. I didn’t want to take a gap semester so I applied to community college. I got to knock out a bunch of general education  credits, so it all worked out in the end. 

I still definitely want to go to France.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: I’m taking two business classes. One is microeconomics and then I’m taking marketing fundamentals. And then the other two classes are GEs. One of them is called a GESM. It’s designed for freshmen to have a smaller class size. And that one is called Civilization as a Global Geo System. It’s all earth science basically. And then my last class is called Introduction to Cinema. 

For my cinema class, we meet every Tuesday from 2:00 p.m. to 5:50 p.m. And we’re lectured for about an hour, hour and a half, and then we watch a movie based on whatever the lecture was about — something that correlates. I love that class so far because it has gotten me to watch more movies but also in a more academic sense. Some movies we’ve watched are “Singing in the Rain,” “Parasite,” “Persepolis,” “Clueless,” this Romanian movie called “Whistlers,” “Little Women,” and “Sunset Boulevard.” It’s definitely my favorite class.

Q: What’s your largest class?

A: The film class with 300 people. It breaks into 10 sections.

Q: What’s your smallest class?

A: My GESM in physical science at 18 people.

Q: What is it like taking college classes from home?

A: Honestly, I think I have a controversial opinion on this. I actually don’t mind it that much. Specifically right now. For fall semester I was doing asynchronous community college classes, and they weren’t super engaging. It was kind of just, “Here’s a bunch of work. Do it by this date.” It wasn’t very motivating and I kind of trudged through it, and it was definitely a little bit depressing for my first semester of college. 

Once I started USC on Jan. 15, I’ve had a super strict schedule of at least one class a day at set times. I attend all the Zoom meetings and some of them have sections or discussions or labs that I also go to. I went from having two Zooms a week to like nine Zooms a week, and although that sounds kind of awful, I actually don’t mind the schedule; it keeps me busy. And I really like my professors and like the stuff that we’re learning.

One of my classes specifically, I was kind of on the fence about taking. It’s called Learning About International Commerce, and it’s a two unit seminar where they just bring in guest speakers from all around the world, and just kind of talk about business stuff. It’s a very open-ended class which I love. But that was my only class on Friday and I was on the fence because I was like it’d be really nice to have Fridays off, but I’ve actually loved it. The whole point of the class is this group project. So I’m working with like four other students, and we’re working with a retreat company in Costa Rica that specializes in creating an awakening. It’s this whole experience and then people make a pledge at the end. So we’re working with them on how to quantify and qualitatively determine how the retreat experience impacts their guests.

This guy from Colombia came and we did this whole coffee making thing and then this guy from Madrid came and we did a design thinking workshop. So that class has kind of been the most like out of the box.

Q: Do you have a specific career in mind?

A: I’m interested in a lot of things. I’m very interested in entrepreneurship and starting a business from scratch, and the venture capital world. I’m also interested in sports management, and working in the front office of a sports franchise sounds really interesting. Also, being in LA and just like how much I’m loving the film classes, I might be interested in something along the lines of sports and entertainment and media.

Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?

A: I slept through one of my classes.

Q: Are you involved in any extracurriculars?

A: I started a student job as a teaching assistant for an entrepreneurship professor. The class is called Founder’s Dilemma. Right now, my role is Event Manager. The class has five sections of about 250 students; three of those sections are graduates, two of them are undergraduates. What I’m focused on right now is organizing a panel of investors to come and talk about what they look for in a startup, and also talk about different buying biases, like gender, age, race, that they notice in the venture industry, and how they try to actively counter those biases. I’ve been doing a lot of networking and reaching out to former USC students and different people in LA. I’ve gathered 12 or 15 investors for the three graduate sections for the panel next week. I’m doing the job for the semester.

A: How has Country Day prepared you for college?

A: Country Day was very challenging academically. It forced me to figure out my work style, how I work best and how I’m most productive — I think specifically junior and senior years. It’s less that I’m reaping the benefits of all the content that I learned, and more that going through the upper level AP classes in junior year made me feel so much more comfortable going into these college classes. I don’t feel like I’m in over my head. Country Day prepared me and taught me what it takes to get good grades.

School was also just hard, and my high school schedule was super cramped. Having to go to school every day for seven hours is like one thing, and then having to go to school at Country Day, having to do the material that we were doing and the amount of assignments plus extracurriculars. It was very packed and now having all my classes spaced out is like a breath of fresh air.

In general my writing skills, my abilities to email or reach out or speak up and ask questions — the kind of intangible things — I learned that all from attending Country Day.

Q: How is the transition from Country Day to college?

A: I kind of did it in steps. I did community college first semester. It was pretty easy but it was asynchronous and it wasn’t very engaging. I didn’t learn a ton — it was more about regurgitation. So that was a mini step, and then this has been a bigger step of having to participate in classes and having more assignments and stuff that’s worth a quarter of your grade. Overall, it’s been a very smooth transition. Part of that is hard to gauge because I’ve been home this whole time. But especially starting at USC has definitely felt like a fresh clean slate, which is nice.

Q: Would you say you had a heavier workload in high school or at USC?

A: My junior year of high school was a bruiser. I think it’s a coping mechanism that I don’t even remember it that well. Way harder. Having to go to school every day, having to drive 40 minutes both directions, every day — I don’t do that at all. I walk about six feet to get into class. Also like me being older now, though it’s technically harder, it feels easier. I have less homework — it’s more just big assignments that are worth 25% of my grade. I know that’s intense, but also I don’t really have daily or weekly assignments that I’m worried about. It’s more just I need to stay on top of it. And if a test is coming up, I need to study. And I’m sure as I go through college it’ll get harder. But yes, high school was a different beast.

Q: What advice would you give to the class of 2021?

A: Don’t focus too hard on any one individual school. You can’t put all your mental, emotional energy into one basket because if for whatever reason it doesn’t work out, you’ll just be ripped to shreds. And it’s not something to feel bad about at all, because there’s so many things, especially right now, that are out of  an individual high school senior’s control.

I think it’s really easy when you think about college and think about your future to naturally think about career and the rest of your life. It’s really important that as you’re planning to apply to college that you also realize where you are at that moment and kind of use the process as a self reflection process of how far you’ve come rather than thinking too hard about where exactly you want to be. A lot of the questions are geared towards what you want to accomplish and all that and yeah, that’s important to think about. But, you can’t get so caught up in it that you forget to live your life now.

University of Southern California
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— By Ethan Monasa and Arijit Trivedi

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