University of California

The University of California system is made up of 9 schools. Among the best known are UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego.

On a recent visit to Berkeley, the tradition of engagement and activism was evident across campus, with fliers promoting all sorts of protests and campaigns. I was also a bit surprised to see a pep rally leading up to the new Berkeley chancellor’s convocation, complete with marching bank and cheerleaders. At a school of 25,000 students, there are clubs and causes for a very diverse group of students (more than 1200 student organizations, and you can always create your own).

Admissions at Berkeley are getting more competitive every years, with a 68% increase in applications in the last eight years. The international student admittance rate in 2013 was 14.6% (and an average SAT for international students of 2136), making it a highly competitive school to get into.

It’s a beautiful campus, with plenty of trees, very walkable, lots of green space, and students who are actively engaged and passionate about lots of issues.

UCLA has the strongest competitive sports culture among the UCs, with a boast that they have won a national championship in at least one sport each year since 1965. With 19% international students in the freshman class, UCLA is diversifying, but this number can’t go up much further due to restrictions on the number of out of state students each UC can admit.

UC San Diego, on the other hand, does not emphasize sports nearly as much. They do not have a football team, and their sports teams play at the Division II level (more low key than Division I).  The campus has a eucalyptus forest running through the middle of it,, giving it a more natural feeling, and the quirky architecture of Geisel Library, named after Dr. Seuss, lend the feeling of a school that attracts interesting, inventive students (my tour guide said it attracts nerds who like to have fun). The warm southern CA weather means you can go to the beach year round, and the center of campus is a 15 minute WALK to the beach! UC SD is unique among the UCs in its set-up. There are 6 colleges, so students are given a smaller liberal arts college feel even though they are at a university with over 22,000 undergrads. Each college has it’s own general education requirements, and you live and take your GE requirements with others in your college. Do be aware that it takes students on average 4 ½ years to graduate.