La Jolla, CA: There is probably no other college that is as ideally situated as the University of California at San Diego. UCSD’s name may be a little deceiving because the university is actually located in La Jolla, a beachside resort 20 minutes from downtown San Diego. San Diego is by far one of the cleanest and most interesting cities I’ve ever visited, complete with skyscrapers, trendy boutiques, coffeehouses, ethnic restaurants, museums, and, of course, its world-famous San Diego Zoo.
Despite UCSD’s close proximity to the beach and other entertainment, the school offers rigorous academics that demand a huge chunk of its students’ time. UCSD’s strengths lie in the sciences and engineering. Though the UC campuses are infamous for large classes, my tour guide assured me that the atmosphere at UCSD is more intimate than one might expect. However, intro classes often exceed one hundred students, and there may be little interaction between students and professors. As a result, many of the larger classes split into discussion sections each week.
The sense of community may be attributed to its college system which is similar to the residential college system found at many elite Eastern universities. This college system is unique because each of its five colleges has its own philosophy, personality, and general requirements. Prospective UCSD students rank the colleges in order of preference when applying.
Admission to UCSD is highly competitive and even more so for out-of-state students. UCSD students are a diverse group, and the term “minority” may be kind of a misnomer here, since minorities make up almost half of the student body.
The UCSD campus is an impressive display of modern architecture. Those seeking century-old buildings or gothic towers will not find them here. UCSD is truly a modern university, with quite a reputation considering its relatively young age. In the middle of the campus sits the Giesel Library, which looks like an inverted pyramid. Near the library is a collection of trees dubbed the Enchanted Forest. These are no ordinary trees since one sings old folk songs and another recites poetry with a heavy Southern accent. The student union boasts the bookstore, a movie theatre, and a food court. There is also space for students to socialize and for organizations to congregate. UCSD’s campus contains many spacious lawns, perfect for playing frisbee and frolicking in the sun.
Most of UCSD’s athletic teams compete at the Division III level. If you are a big football fan, however, UCSD may not be the place for you because the school no longer has a football team.
If you are looking for a school with good academics, a plethora of extracurricular activities, and a lively social scene, UCSD will not disappoint you. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend visiting the campus, and not just take my word for it. f
Reviewed in 1998