Should I Go To University of California, San Diego?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. William is a San Diego tutor specializing in Biostatistics, Calculus, Grammar and Mechanics, and much more. He graduated from University of California, San Diego in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering. See what he had to say about UCSD:


VT:  Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

William: The transportation is currently great, with shuttles and bus passes included in tuition. The school is planning on ceasing these services soon, however. The campus and surrounding neighbourhood is very safe, and fun to bike around. Parking on campus is hard to find, so it is best to get to school early or park somewhere else and bike/take the bus to school for the rest of the way.

VT:  How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants? 

William: Most professors are free for their scheduled office hours, although some may be too busy. Academic advisers are usually free for walk-ins or appointments, although things can get busy for them at the beginning of the quarter, when everyone is trying to switch classes. Teaching assistants are your point of contact for learning and are most often the most reliable, accessible learning resource on campus (some even hold end-of-quarter review sessions or workshops to help you in your class). 

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

William: Dorm life is great – you will meet many new friends and don’t have to worry about getting groceries (this can be a difficulty if you don’t have a car) or cooking (also difficult if you don’t have a kitchen). On-campus dining halls provide pretty good food, although you might get tired of it after the end of the year! Resident advisers and security officers can be intrusive of your privacy at times, but if you stay on their good side they will be nice. If you are interested in meeting international students, look into living at I-House your second year. It will be an unforgettable experience, I promise.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

William: At UCSD, the sciences are very developed. UCSD pulls in a lot of research money for the Biological Sciences and Engineering, and it shows in the undergraduate program. UCSD also has great programs for Psychology, Neuroscience, Theatre, and Political Science. I chose to pursue Bioengineering because I loved AP Biology in high school and excelled in mathematics and physics. UCSD has the 5th best undergraduate Bioengineering program in the nation, so needless to say, the program was top-notch.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

William: It is fairly easy to meet friends who are your immediate neighbours as a freshman. From there, you will meet people in clubs or organizations, study partners from classes, or even people who don’t go to UCSD. Although I chose not to pursue Greek life because I was happy with my group of friends and didn’t want to dish out quarterly dues, the Greek system can be a great place to network and assume leadership positions which look great on applications to jobs or grad school. There is no “frat row” at UCSD due to the banning of fraternity houses by the La Jolla community, but the Greek system does have a voice in student politics. 

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

William: Getting advice from the Career Center is a good idea for those who are looking ahead to grad school or the workforce after college. Don’t put off preparing for the next step after college, even as you’re getting familiar with your undergraduate experience. Being a leader in clubs and professional organizations, pursuing summer internships (paid or unpaid!), and working in professors’ labs will pay off big time, especially if you are applying to jobs or grad school with years of these experiences under your belt.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges?  Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious? 

William: Study areas are abundant and spacious. I still use some on campus when I need a quiet place to work, and you will discover new ones throughout your college experience. Beware of studying with those who don’t actually study but just want to chat because you most likely won’t get much work done. Personally, the library is not my favourite place to socialize. 

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus?

William: La Jolla is a very expensive, residential area where a lot of rich people live (parking tickets are $70!). For fun, check out Pacific Beach, or you could go downtown as well. There are often events on campus as well, including music performances at The Loft or Porter’s Pub, often featuring well-known artists with free admission for students. Coming from Montana, I immediately started surfing because nearby Blacks Beach is one of the better beach breaks in the world and a 10 minute walk away. 

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes? 

William: The student body, at least for the Sciences and Engineering, is huge. Don’t expect too much individual attention in class. Language and Arts classes tend to be smaller, but the best way to receive personal attention in classes is to go to TA sections and office hours (my favourite, because they go over homework problems) and professor office hours (usually only 3 or 4 other students show up, if any).

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

William: I loved taking the Calculus 20 series. One teacher in particular, Professor Stevens, was the most energetic teacher I have ever had. Solving problems involving complicated integrals are not the most fun part of calculus, but she made it exciting and enjoyable.


Check out William’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.