College Profile: Tell Me More about UC-Irvine

By Elizabeth LaScala, PhD

Welcome to the third in a series of articles about the University of California system. For the sake of fairness, going alphabetically, the first article was all about the top-ranked UC-Berkeley and the second, was devoted to our state land’s grant university, UC-Davis. Next in line is the University of California-Irvine (UCI), so read on!

Founded in 1965, UCI is among the newest of UC campuses, yet in this relatively short time span, it has emerged to become one of America’s best public universities. While it does not have the longer histories and higher profiles of UC-Berkeley and UCLA, UCI offers a combination of academic rigor, sun drenched beaches, and ski slopes just an hour away.

UCI is seriously premed, and the School of Biological Sciences is considered one of the best and most competitive of their academic divisions. The already intense ‘premed mentality’ is further fueled by rigorous coursework, selective research positions and very large class sizes. Juxtaposed to the intense biological sciences majors are nationally ranked programs in dance, drama, music, studio art, and musical theatre housed in the School of Arts. The popular interdisciplinary School of Social Ecology offers innovative academic pairings such as environmental and legal studies, and psychology and social behavior, with an emphasis on professor/student relationships—a treasure to find in the often impersonal feel to our monolithic UC system.

Located in the heart of suburban Orange County, UCI is just 50 miles from L.A. Some students describe UCI’s clean, contemporary 1,500-acre campus as ‘a bit slow’ and it is true that about 29% of the freshmen live off campus; this fact may give a slight commuter feel to the university. However, lovely Aldrich Park, with over 11,000 trees, modeled after New York’s Central Park, is at the center of a campus that many students say has a thriving social life. With more than 500 student organizations, including nearly 50 fraternities and sororities offered to UCI’s almost 30,000 undergraduates, it is not much of a stretch to say that if you are willing to expend a bit of effort, any student can find a place to have fun and make friends at UCI.

For fall 2021, UCI accepted more than 31,000 applicants from a pool of about 108,000, which amounts to about a 29% admit rate. Their nearly 42% acceptance rate for transfer students is considerably higher than its standard rate and more than 30% of the student body consists of transfers from other schools. UCI retains freshmen and graduates a class as well as a number of other great state universities, and 69% of the freshmen who entered in 2021 graduated within four years.

UCI offers 87 undergraduate degree programs within ten schools. The School of Biological Sciences houses some of the most coveted majors, with public health, business and political science also being super popular. Languages are quite strong at UCI and its fiction writing/creative writing program is rapidly gaining national recognition. UCI also offers an academic advantage that the higher ranked UC-Berkeley and UCLA do not: a Campus-wide Honors Program that includes Honors housing. In fact, campus honors students may choose from three on-campus living options.

The attraction of the honors program is easy to understand when you take into account what a tough fight it is to get into science and other popular majors’ classes for sophomores and even juniors. Seniors say there are often 100 or more students in their major classes and TAs do much of the teaching; not surprisingly, getting some professor attention takes work. That said, for the student who is willing to buckle down and study for a few years, UCI offers top name professors, innovative academic programs, and cutting-edge research opportunities. Successful students leave with a world-class education and employers that recognize them as such with top job offers, especially in the sciences, engineering and business.