College Profile: Tell Me More About University of California-San Diego (UCSD)

University of California-San Diego (UCSD)

Elizabeth LaScala PhD

The University of California-San Diego (UCSD) first opened its doors in 1960. Since then, it has grown to become one of America’s leading research universities, and one of the top 30 in the world. Last year, Money ranked UCSD as the twelfth best college for your money in the country. Located near the Pacific Ocean, the modern UCSD campus is home to over 41,300 undergraduates. Want to take a study break? Beaches are only a short walk or bus ride away.

Gaining admission to UCSD is getting tougher. In 2006, UCSD accepted 49 percent of high school seniors. Freshman classes have gotten larger since then, but the acceptance rate has fallen to 34 percent for the first-year students who began classes this fall. Over 100,000 students wanted a seat in this fall’s freshman class. Only UCLA attracted more interest in the UC system.

The middle 50% of UCSD’s entering freshmen class had GPAs of 4.0. Freshmen who start at UCSD usually finish. Freshman retention rates have averaged 95 percent since 2006, excellent for a very large school. Currently, seventy-three percent of the freshmen finished on time. Like the other UC campuses, over 90 percent of UCSD’s junior transfer students come from California’s community colleges.

UCSD’s academic special sauce is science and technology. US News ranks the university’s Jacobs School of Engineering 22nd among public engineering schools. Jacobs offers 17 undergraduate programs in computer science and engineering, including unique majors in nano engineering and structural engineering. The Scripps Institute of Oceanography has three Nobel laureates and undergraduate programs in earth science, environmental science and policy, marine biology, oceanic and atmospheric sciences. UCSD also offers tremendous depth within the social sciences; for example, the cognitive science major includes six specialties. There are also nine ways to pursue international studies, including a joint major with international business. Being close to the Mexican border, UCSD offers not only a major in Latin American Studies; it also offers concentrations in Mexico as well as  migration and border studies.

Over 650 companies have been launched by or utilize technology produced by UC San Diego faculty, staff and alumni, like GoPro, Qualcomm, Life Technologies and Cubic, just to name a few. Have an idea that could turn into a new business? UCSD has The Basement, its own small business incubator and mystartupXX, an entrepreneurship accelerator program targeted to women.  Most large public universities give graduate students high priority for research opportunities. But UCSD has eight academic enrichment programs to encourage undergraduate research as well as an Academic Internship Program.

UCSD is the most residential of the UC system campuses; nearly 40 percent of the undergraduates live on campus. UCSD’s residential college system helps make this very large school feel much smaller.  After making their own ranked selections, incoming freshmen are assigned to one of seven residential colleges: Marshall, Muir, Revelle, Roosevelt, Seventh, Sixth and Warren. Each has its own general education curriculum, dining, housing, residence life programs, academic advising, traditions and community focus. For example, Muir, named for Sierra Club founder John Muir, celebrates self-reliance, calculated risk-taking and the joys of finding your own direction. Students should choose their rankings of the residential college system very carefully.

Outside of residential college life, UCSD has more than 500 student organizations. UCSD also competes in 23 NCAA Division I varsity sports, including water polo, in the Big West Conference, which includes system rivals UC-Davis, UC-Irvine, UC-Riverside and UC-Santa Barbara.

UCSD is not as urban, nor as spirit and sports oriented as UC-Berkeley and UCLA. But the academics are no less challenging. The UCSD campus also has a stronger residential community identity that you will not find at the two higher profile UCs. At UCSD, if you choose the right residential college to support your academics, you can make friends and professional connections that will last a lifetime.

This article is the seventh in a series about the University of California. Going alphabetically, these profiles include UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis, UC-Irvine,  UCLA, UC-Merced and UC-Riverside. To read them all click here.