While most of her classmates were preparing for their last year of high school, Evie Kay was getting ready for college.
She applied to USC during the fall of her junior year through the highly selective Resident Honors program and was accepted to college a year earlier than the typical high schooler. Kay, a USC Viterbi student, also received the prestigious USC Presidential Scholarship.
“I had always been in courses a year above my class in high school,” said Kay, now 17. “Had I stayed for senior year, I would have exhausted many of the classes that would have been interesting to me.”
A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Kay, like most freshmen, felt nervous about the transition to college and adjusting to life in a new place. But unlike many freshmen, she was lucky to already have a familiar face at USC: her older brother, Miles, a sophomore at USC Viterbi.
Miles Kay, also a Presidential Scholarship winner, has already had a year to excel at USC, where he enjoys his classes and getting involved on campus. He serves as the fundraising director for USC’s Engineers Without Borders, and as a Viterbi Student Ambassador.
Miles Kay, age 19, seems happy to have his sister join him on campus.
“We’re really close,” he said. “Growing up, we were pretty much inseparable, and it’s nice having someone from home here for me too. Sometimes being away from college can be overwhelming, and it’s good to have a family member to lean on.”
Evie Kay seconds that emotion.
“He’s really supportive of me being here,” she said. Miles has “helped to make the transition a lot easier, especially since I’m coming a year early. It’s good to have the person who’s been my best friend my whole life by my side through college.”
So, how did two siblings from Omaha end up at USC anyway? According to Miles, it was a bit of good luck. He wanted to go somewhere far away from home but actually applied to predominately East Coast schools.
“In a million years, we could not have imagined Miles and Evie ending up at USC together,” Miles and Evie’s mother, Laurie Kay, said. “We envisioned Miles on the East Coast and Evie on the West.”
The Kay family didn’t have an immediate connection to USC, but Charles Kay, Miles and Evie’s father, had attended the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara and lived in L.A. after college. “My dad talked a lot about how California was his favorite state in the country because of the food, the beaches, the surfing and the fact that some of his best friends live out here,” Miles said. With this in mind, he applied to one school in sunny Los Angeles, but never expected to end up here.
“When I got into USC, I had never even visited the school before,” Miles said. “But after I visited for my scholarship interview, I fell in love. I knew there was no other place for me.”
Added Laurie Kay, Miles and Evie’s mother: “Miles felt something so special on the campus and knew that the entire experience of USC offered exactly what he wanted. He felt the Trojan spirit.”
Evie Kay’s decision was simpler: USC’s unique accelerated program made it the only university she applied to, and her first and only choice. “My dad always jokes that Evie got into 100 percent of the schools she applied to,” Miles said.
She was drawn to USC’s balanced academic life. “I liked how USC was so collaborative versus the typically competitive environment found at a lot of East Coast schools.”
And her brother, whom Evie calls her “best friend,” made USC all the more appealing. So did the fact that he has a car and an apartment with a kitchen.
As a measure of the siblings’ shared interests, they study at USC Viterbi under the same major: mechanical engineering.
“There was competition between us in high school to some extent, but it’s pretty much dissipated as we’ve come to college,” Miles said.
Despite their shared major, the brother-and-sister besties have distinct skills.
As a child, Miles was serious, measured and kind. He had a brilliant memory and a love for reading, writing, and math. “Miles was always studying the world around him,” his mother said. “He memorized many of his favorite books, spent years building Lego creations, and loved spelling.”
Evie, a smiling, happy child, loved art, science and reading medical reference books. “I’ve always been 50 percent artist and 50 percent STEM girl,” she said.
Miles and Evie Kay have continued to develop their unique personalities and interests as they enter the adult world. Although both are interested in jobs in consulting, they will employ different skill sets to excel in the field.
“I’m interested in consulting because I want a job that’s STEM-based but also creative,” Evie said. As part of a 3-D printing club on campus called 3d4E, she has listened to professionals talk about consulting jobs in 3-D printing that seamlessly combine art and STEM.
Miles, on the other hand, is intrigued by the technology side of consulting, a field his minor in computer programming has allowed him to explore. “I love coding and figuring out how to use computers to solve problems and make systems more efficient,” he said.
With their different skill sets, they can find different ways to solve the same problems.
“Miles and Evie are both really good kids: polite, hard-working and curious about the world,” their mother, Laurie, said. “We are so proud to have two USC Trojans in the Viterbi School of Engineering. Fight on!”