We can help you get into your dream school.

Start Magoosh SAT or Magoosh ACT Prep today!

Rita Neumann

My Journey to UC San Diego

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.

College Apps

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.

target yeah right

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:

  • Cost
  • Reputation
  • 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.”

306620_10100847344232194_233850861_n 535238_10100846843071524_212798805_n 149450_10100955833214404_2083339349_n


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.

Student Life

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. 🙂

Photo Credit: Jon Hamm gif / Hillary Clinton gif / UCSD Admissions / Geisel Library / Me

Improve your SAT or ACT score, guaranteed. Start your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh SAT Prep or your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh ACT Prep today!

magoosh logo checks

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.

4 Responses to “My Journey to UC San Diego”

  1. Shannon McKinley says:

    I’m from Nebraska. I will have to pay out-of-state tuition. Is it worth it? I don’t have any way to pay for college accept for scholarships. Will I be in tons of debt and working all the time?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert Magoosh Test Prep Expert says:

      Hi Shannon,

      This is a very personal decision that you have to make. Taking on student load debt is a big decision, so you will want to take into account the salary you are likely to get for the job you’re hoping for after school, living expenses, the quality of the out-of-state education, etc. If you have access to a guidance counselor, this is a great conversation to have! Keep in mind that your debt grows with interest even as you study, so taking out loans immediately costs more money. You need to decide if you’re making a smart investment. 🙂

  2. Nnanna Njoku says:

    Since I will be attending the school starting in the Fall, I have found your article very helpful to read. I am honestly excited to attend UC San Diego, but I know there is the stigma of being a school that is “socially dead” and a lack of parties.

    I am not much of a party person, so this doesn’t frighten me one bit. However, what would you say to someone who told you the school is socially dead based on your experience of attending UC San Diego?

    • David Recine David Recine says:

      It’s really difficult to accurately gauge the social environment at any university, since different people have such different experiences. I have personally heard conflicting stories form friends and students of mine who attended UC San Diego. Some say it was socially boring, while others say that there were always things to do.

      What I can tell you is that at a very large public university, such as UC San Diego, there will be things to and people you can enjoy meeting, no matter what your interests or preferences are. The trick of course, is being able to find the right social scene. It’s easy to get socially “lost” in a school that has more than 35,000 students. To see what the school has to offer you, look into the student organizations and clubs that are available, the kinds of popular student hangouts there are in and around campus, and so on.

Leave a Reply

Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!