OK, here's what you all came for, the recap of my campus visit to USC's Marshall School.
I got there early on Monday morning so I could walk around campus and get a feel. The weather was perfect, a nice cool breeze, and the campus was just coming alive. The students I saw seemed happy and engaged. At 11 it was time to check in with the Admissions office for my info session. There were maybe 11 or 12 others with me, and it was led by Veronica Ho. She went into great detail regarding the admissions process. One thing she stressed was that, if you have a sub-3.0 GPA, use the supplemental essay to explain this, and try to take classes to create an additional transcript (she even gave specific classes at certain schools to take, which I was thankful for!).
She also stated that applications were up over 20% from last year, and doesn't expect that number to drop next admissions season. Everyone knows, when the economy goes down, grad school admissions applications go up. Guess i just need to present myself in the best possible way. She also reiterated that applying early is better than late, but if you must go late, use the supplemental essay to explain why. She also mentioned that you should always make sure you change the schools name on all correspondence and essays; yes, people do forget. She said it's not such a big deal with recommenders, but there is no excuse for the applicant.
After the info session with Veronica, a student ambassador came in to speak with us about student life issues: housing, social, what to do once you get accepted. She was extremely friendly and helpful. She then took us to a class visit, a global strategy class dealing with the Russian oil market. Now, I found the class extremely engaging and interesting; the hour and twenty minutes flew by. The students were well-prepared and had very insightful comments and questions. The professor was very good as well.
After a quick tour of Popovich Hall, we were left to our own devices. I visited the campus store (had to bring home shirts for the family), then cabbed it back to my hotel. A note about the surrounding area: I don't think it's as bad as people make it out to be. It's not exactly Compton from Boyz N The Hood, and you're not constantly getting harassed or anything. Would I be careful about where I live? Absolutely. Then again, I lived in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for three years, in a very nice part of town, and I got held up at gunpoint and shot at, so trouble finds you wherever you go.
All in all, I absolutely loved my visit. It's definitely on my short list now, though I've got more schools to visit. If you have any other questions, please ask