To say that I love where I went to college is probably an understatement. I studied there for four years. Left for a year. Then came back for two more as a graduate student. I still dream of moving back to San Diego one day.
But I wasn’t always so sure that it was the right fit for me.
When I started applying to college, I had no idea where or what I wanted to study.
My thought process had always gone something like: get good grades in middle school so that you can take the AP classes in high school so that you can go to a good college. Eventually.
I tend to think in run-on sentences.
My parents wanted me to go to Loyola Marymount University – a school with a great reputation that happens to be a 20 minute drive from where I grew up. There was talk of packing my lunch every day and living at home.
Luckily I had a super-smart friend in high school who had attended expensive private college counseling, and seemed to have the whole thing figured out. He sat me down one day and asked where I was thinking of applying. I showed him my mile-long list and he proceeded to add the notes: this is a reach, this is a target, this is a safety – to all of the schools.
- LMU, UC Davis, UC San Diego, Boston College: safety
- UCLA, Berkeley, Brown: target
- Dartmouth: reach
I figured that I’d just pick between the one or two schools that I got into, and that would be that. However, when the letters came, I was lucky to have lots of options. No Dartmouth, but everywhere else was a go. I was excited – but all the choices made the decision more difficult.
(Hillary would have gotten into Dartmouth.)
My college decision was based on 5 main criteria:
- Distance from home
- Proximity to the ocean
- Study abroad opportunities
In the end, I ruled out the private schools, because they were too expensive. That left me with the UC Berkeley, Los Angeles, Davis, and San Diego – all of which have an excellent reputation and in-state tuition (if you’re a California kid like me). Plus, coming from a large high school, I knew that there would be friendly faces at any of these universities.
I visited all of the colleges (I highly recommend campus tours), and had moments where I was sure that I was going to go to each.
The day that I visited UCSD was gorgeous, sunny, and 80 degrees. Students were outside playing frisbee, tanning, reading, and having a wonderful college-y time. At the end of the campus tour, our guide recommended that we walk across the street to “The Cliffs”, which offer a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean, surfers, beachgoers, and parasailers …
I mean, come on.
I was sold. UCSD met all of my criteria: it had a great reputation, low cost compared to private schools, was near enough to home that I could visit when I wanted yet far enough that no one would be randomly dropping by, was mere minutes from the ocean, and had amazing study abroad programs. Plus, it just felt right.
I thought, “I can live here for four years.”
Things to Know About UCSD
The College System
UCSD is made up of 6 colleges: Muir (Go Muirons!), Warren, Marshall, Revelle, Eleanor Roosevelt, and 6th College. Each college has its own dorms and dining halls, clubs, philosophies, and general education requirements. Students from all colleges take courses together, but your college is like your home base.
UCSD students have the opportunity to live in the dorms for their first two years. Some of the dorms have ocean views, some have canyon views, some look like Camp Snoopy at Knott’s Berry Farm, some have friendly neighborhood coyotes roaming around – there’s a lot of diversity.
At Muir, all of our dorms and dining halls were named after places in Yosemite National Park (Tioga Hall, Tenaya Hall, Tuolumne Apartments). At graduation, we had a full Scottish band complete with drums, bagpipes, and men in kilts. For special occasions, we ate haggis – all in recognition of John Muir. There’s no shortage of campus culture.
The campus itself is huge. If you have a class in Revelle followed by a lecture in Warren, you have to rush to make it within the on time/ten minutes late window. You probably won’t gain the freshman 15, but you also won’t arrive to class without having worked up a serious sweat. Did I mention the hills?
UCSD students have a reputation for being really (really) nerdy. And that part is true. We are total nerds who love our classes, and spend all of finals week in the library. The academics are rigorous. Luckily, our library is awesome.
Some even say it looks like a spaceship. Geisel library is named after Dr. Seuss (heard of him?) and contains an exhibit of his early political cartoons. It houses a great film library, hosts an annual birthday party for Dr. Seuss complete with cake for the entire campus, and … okay, okay enough about the library.
Campus life is anything but boring, and non-academic fun is everywhere all the time. Every spring, the student government puts on a music festival called Sungod. With multiple stages, a dance tent, and food trucks, it’s pretty epic. Your friends from other colleges will want to come.
Choosing the Right School
Ultimately, choosing the right college comes down to finding the criteria that are most important to you. Maybe it’s the quality of the sports team, or the pre-med program, or the school’s greek life. For me, it was mostly about finding a place that felt like home.
UCSD became that place, because it’s where I made amazing friends, discovered my academic passions, and got the courage to study abroad. Plus, you can’t beat the view …
Have questions about UCSD? I’m happy to answer them! Leave them in the comments below. 🙂
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About Rita Neumann
Rita creates fun, inspiring, and educational resources that introduce students to Magoosh and help them prep for their exams. She earned both her BA and Master of Pacific International Affairs from UC San Diego, where she also studied Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Rita loves education and marketing, just as much as she loves vinyasa yoga and baking chocolate chip cookies.
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