University of California, San Diego Visit Report by LostCoast
Information Session: Yes - Left early. Some useful info, but much that we already knew and a Q&A with lots of parents who apparently haven't bothered to read the web pages.
Campus Tour: Yes - Saw less than half of campus, but the guide was very outgoing and friendly, and had lots of good information. Didn't go into any buildings, but they were open and we saw some afterwards.
Campus Visit Notes for University of California, San Diego
Overall, I had a positive reaction to the UCSD campus. It lies near to my daughter's "sweet spot" of campuses that are large enough to have plenty of academic options, but not too huge (about 23,000 undergraduates). Around noon, but campus was bustling, but not crammed with people. It was nowhere near the descriptions I've heard of some campuses, where noon is made to sound like the day after Christmas sale at Harrods.
The campus is only 50 years old, and so the architecture is all new. I liked it, but if you really love the "Old Ivy" look, you would not find UCSD to be appealing. Some areas have large buildings close together, making it feel like a more urban campus, while other areas have large spaces between buildings and eucalyptus woods. There are also a number outdoor sculptures. The ones that we saw included a large snake that doubles as a walkway, the "talking trees" and a statue of The Cat in the Hat with Theodor Geisel ("Dr. Seuss") whose papers were donated to the library. And of course the main library could be considered a sculpture. It's quite impressive from a distance, but can feel a bit oppressive when you're standing underneath it.
We didn't get to see a residence hall. It sounds like the housing consists of suite-style units, even for freshmen. That's pretty unusual, and so I'll need to follow up on it to make sure that I heard correctly. Housing is guaranteed for two years.
The college system takes some work to figure out. They're not independent units within the campus (like a British university), but they are more than just residential areas. You can have any major and be affiliated with any of the colleges. You'll take the exact same classes as everybody else in your major. What differs from college-to-college are the General Education Requirements. Each colleges sets on its own, based upon the general philosophy of the college. Some students select their college based on the perceived ease of the GERs, or how well they mesh with their intended major, or on how the types of courses in the GERs mesh with their personal interests. It's something that you definitely want to think about when you apply--that's when you rank your college preferences, and once in, it's hard to change.
There were a few downsides that hit us during the tour. One was that it is definitely a southern California campus, in terms of appearance, surroundings, and students. That would actually be a big plus for many people, but we're more happy in northern CA.
During the tour, the guide also talked a lot about the various festivals, concerts, and so forth that all of the colleges have, as well as the campus-wide festivals (the Sun God Festival seems to be the real biggie). I'm sure that she wanted to make people feel comfortable about going there, but it began to sound like one big party, which is a turnoff to my academic-minded daughter.
It was also mentioned 2-3 times that UCSD is the "#1 surfing campus" in the country. I have no idea what that means or how it's measured, but the image that came to my daughter was being stuck in classes filled with slacker surfing bums. The students that we saw walking around certainly didn't seem to fit that image, but it still had her worried.
Overall, though, given the attractiveness of the campus, and the breadth of academic offerings, UCSD will be on my daughter's list for applications.