University of California, San Diego: A Student Interview

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Sharanya is currently a junior at the University of California, San Diego majoring in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. She specializes in many subjects including Spanish tutoring, Writing tutoring, SAT prep tutoring, and much more. Check out her review of her school:

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?

Sharanya: The University of California, San Diego is located in the affluent coastal city of La Jolla, California. The campus is generally very safe, and the option for a student to call a Community Service Officer to walk him or her back to his/her dorm or apartment on campus is just one phone call away come evening. Students have access to the bus routes that service the campus, most parts of La Jolla, and other parts of San Diego. A car can serve as a convenience for those who wish to access the parts of San Diego that are unreachable by bus. Moreover, many students bike to get from class to class, especially when going from one end of campus to the other.

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

Sharanya: Professors and teaching assistants hold office hours, where students can go and ask any questions about course material that they have. Academic advisers both for students’ majors and colleges are available for students to talk to in order to develop a four-year academic course plan that ensure a timely graduation date.

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

Sharanya: The University of California, San Diego has six different undergraduate colleges (Revelle, Muir, Marshall, Roosevelt, Warren, and Sixth) that determine not only the general education courses students take, but also their on-campus housing location. I myself am a Marshall student—during my freshman year, I lived in the residence halls, which are structured as a suite-style living space (each houses anywhere from nine to 14 people); during my sophomore year, I lived in one of the on-campus apartments (each houses anywhere from four to six people). There are multiple resident assistants (RAs) for each section of campus housing; each one takes on a residence hall building or an apartment cluster. The RAs are there to make each student’s on-campus college experience as fun and welcoming as possible. There are six dining halls on campus (one in each of the six colleges), as well as four specialty eateries where students can use their dining dollars to eat. Additionally, the RAs will put on many socializing/team-building events for their residents to come out and get to know each other.

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?

Sharanya: The University of California, San Diego is a public university that emphasizes the importance of research—the university is best known for its Division of Biological Sciences (as well as their medical school), its Rady School of Management, and its Jacobs School of Engineering. I am currently pursuing a degree in biochemistry and cell biology because I want to work in either a pharmaceutical company or a public health organization in the future. The University of California, San Diego is one of the best ranked schools for Biological Sciences in the United States, and it provides many opportunities for research in this particular branch of science.

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?

Sharanya: During my time so far at the University of California, San Diego, I find that most of the friends that I have made are either from on-campus housing arrangements or my classes. Joining a club/student organization or a Greek organization can make it easier for students to develop a close-knit group of friends. I myself am not in a Greek organization, but my friends that are find that the sisterhood/brotherhood that comes with being in a sorority/fraternity is very fulfilling, socially and emotionally.

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

Sharanya: The Career Services Center on campus is a great resource for students who need help obtaining jobs/internships relevant to their majors. Every so often, the center will hold informational sessions and other workshops to provide students with more information about searching for jobs, building a good resume, and acing job interviews. Some companies even come to the University of California, San Diego every so often, and the center holds career fairs on campus for students to hand in their resumes to companies, as well.

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

Sharanya: In addition to the main library located in the center of the campus, there is a Biomedical Sciences Library located at the medical school. There are also many study areas and lounges located throughout the campus, as well. Although they are quickly filled up during finals week, finding a quiet space to study throughout the quarter is not that difficult.

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? 

Sharanya: The University of California, San Diego, despite the institution’s name, is located in La Jolla, an affluent coastal city north of downtown San Diego. There are a few beaches that are about a 20-minute walk from the western edge of campus; many students go there to surf, swim, and hang out in their spare time, weather permitting. La Jolla has a shopping center called La Jolla Village Square, as well as a Westfield Shopping Mall that are both easy to access by bus. Most students frequent either or both of these places to get whatever shopping they have done. La Jolla also has a downtown area with many restaurants and small boutiques, as well as a cove where people can observe the many seals that live there.

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

Sharanya: The University of California, San Diego has an undergraduate student population of approximately 24,000 students. Because it is a public university, lecture class sizes can range anywhere from 100-400 students, but most courses have a smaller, classroom-style learning component in addition to the lecture. At first, I was a bit overwhelmed with lecture classes, as they can make it more difficult for some students to ask questions. However, professors have office hours where students can come in and ask whatever questions they have in a one-on-one setting.

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

Sharanya: At a large university like the University of California, San Diego, it can be hard for the professor to know each and every student (and vice versa). One unique thing that my school offers to its students is the opportunity to “Dine with a Prof,” where students are able to enjoy a free meal with a professor they would like to get to know better outside of the lecture hall. Two of my classmates and I took advantage of this opportunity and did Dine with a Prof with one of our humanities professors, and we were able to have a good conversation with him over some delicious food.

Check out Sharanya’s tutoring profile.

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